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Secondhand smoke is first-rate problem

Publication Date: 2011-07-17
  • Author:Andy Ceballos
  • Publication:Central Florida Future

Secondhand smoke can be very dangerous and unpleasant, and people shouldn't be forced to be exposed to it.

A recent poll conducted by Gallup finds that 59 percent of Americans now support a ban on smoking in all public places. This is the first time the majority has voted this way since Gallup first posed the question in 2001.

This position is becoming more and more popular in the United States. According to the American Lung Association, 27 states plus the District of Columbia have passed comprehensive smoke-free laws.

Implementing a smoking ban in public places will help to keep areas such as public parks clean, reduce litter caused by cigarette butts and help individuals avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.

Secondhand smoke is much more dangerous than people might think it is. According to the American Lung Association, it is responsible for an estimated 50,000 deaths each year, mostly resulting from lung cancer and coronary heart disease. The association finds that even short-term exposure can increase the risk of heart attacks.

Secondhand smoke is also a serious problem in the workplace. According to the American Lung Association, levels of secondhand smoke in restaurants and bars are two to five times higher than in residences with smokers and two to six times higher than in office workplaces. This is a big risk for a worker to have to take, considering that secondhand smoke causes approximately 3,400 deaths from lung cancer and 22,700 to 69,600 deaths from heart disease each year, according to the American Lung Association.

Some people have proposed the idea of designated smoking areas as a possible solution. This would require public locations to set up shelters that will need to be cleaned on a regular basis. This could potentially mean increased staffing needs in order to clean these new shelters, as well as to enforce this policy. In places like public parks, this could mean increased costs to the American taxpayer. Some smokers may no doubt choose to ignore designated smoking areas and smoke where they please, which would increase the workload of staff that work in public areas.

Americans really only seem to get behind the idea of designated smoking areas when presented with this option versus banning smoking altogether or having no restrictions on smoking, according to Gallup. Gallup's data from last July indicates that when presented with these options, Americans were more likely to choose setting aside areas for smokers. This data shows that public support for the idea of designated smoking areas is there, but only under these conditions.

Florida's enclosed workplaces, including restaurants and public places, are smoke-free because of a state passed in 2003, according to Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights.

Smoking has a wide range of harmful effects, and has been associated with multiple types of cancers, such as lung, oral and throat cancers. A ban on smoking in public areas will decrease the likelihood that people are exposed to secondhand smoke, which has significant harmful effects of its own. It will help keep public places clean and prevent workers from having to choose between being subjected to this smoke or having a safe work environment.

Smoking is a personal choice, and people should be allowed to decide on their own if the decision to smoke is right for them. We must find a balance, however, between the rights of those that smoke and those that choose not to. A ban on smoking in all public places a fair method of regulating the use of a product with harmful effects to people exposed to secondhand smoke. To do otherwise infringes upon the rights of nonsmokers. This ban is something other cities and states across the U.S. should consider.

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