For the past couple of years, discussions of smoking bans have been popular in many cities throughout the US. Even here on campus, we have the Smoke Free SLU group, and St. Louis went smoke free in January of this year. This article from the NY Times discusses a bill that was recently passed to ban smoking in public parks, pedestrian malls, and city beaches.
This raises the question of whose rights are being validated and whose, if anyone’s, are being ignored? Though bans on smoking have definite health benefits and are becoming popular across the country, many people are not happy with them. So, let’s look at both sides. On one hand, second hand smoke is a major issue in public places. As the article states, 57% of nonsmoking adults in NY have an elevated level of nicotine byproduct in their blood. Also, smoking in public places often leads to extra cigarette butts that no one wants to see lying around. Clearly, smoking is a huge public health issue. Still, we have to look at the other side of the argument. Some people fear economic issues related to the bans. They wonder if business profits and employment will be affected. An even bigger fear is the snowball affect. Will people be banned from smoking in their own homes and cars next? Does this smoking restriction mean we are moving towards a totalitarian society?
Is it just to limit the freedom of an individual? Does the health of the public outweigh individual liberties? As some people fear, the ban may become even more restrictive. Is there a cut-off to how much an individual’s liberties can be limited to benefit the many? Smoking bans in many cities first started out as prohibiting smoking in bars and restaurants or other public buildings. Now we are limiting beaches and parks. Who is to say there won’t be further limiting? I would think that many more people are in favor of the ban than are against it, but those who are against it want to exercise there rights? Still, in matters public health, should those individuals really have the right to harm others?
To think about: What about if the majority wanted to smoke in public places and only some wanted to ban smoking? In this case, would the few outweigh the many? Should individual freedoms always be limited in the name of public health?