There is a silent killer that does not discriminate race, gender, or age, and it can be found in most public places in Virginia such as workplaces, restaurants, and bars. This killer is known as the cigarette. Each year over 480,000 smokers and 53,800 nonsmokers die from exposure to the 4,000 chemicals found in cigarettes. Smokers are provided with this knowledge of how detrimental to one’s health smoking can be, yet these people still choose to smoke cigarettes. Although this immensely addictive habit can lead to deadly diseases like pneumonia, emphysema and lung cancer, it is not up to the government to impose laws on whether or not a person can smoke. However, smoking is not limited to affecting the smoker negatively. Second hand smoke affects all victims in the surrounding areas of the smoker. The reason for this is when a person smokes in public the smoke disperses throughout the air, leading to the negative effects of smoking affecting all beings near the smoking individual. Secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer, coronary heart disease, and increase risk of a heart attack in nonsmoking adults. In the United States, approximately 3,000 adults die each year from lung cancer due to exposure to secondhand smoke. In addition, 46,000 nonsmokers die from heart disease caused by second hand smoke. As a result of these alarming numbers I stand on the side of banning smoke in public places.
After struggling with breathing issues and asthma for the last couple years, I have found that even though there is a designated spot to smoke, the toxins still spread to all surrounding areas, including the one I’m in, causing me difficulty in breathing. It is now known that tobacco smoke is the most common trigger for an asthma attack. By breathing in secondhand smoke people with asthma are susceptible to their airways becoming swollen, coughing, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, wheezing, and tightness or pain in the chest. These attacks can range from mild to life threatening in severity. Why should someone in public who is not smoking have to suffer major consequences from a decision made by another person to smoke a cigarette? 39 state legislators in the United States asked themselves this same questions and as a result, state wide smoking bans were implemented. Smoking bans are public policies prohibiting tobacco smoking in workplaces and other public spaces. With the introduction of these bans came controversy on the infringement of individual rights of smokers and the harm unintentional harm these laws would impose on businesses.
Some argue that disallowing smokers to smoke in public infringes upon their individual rights and freedoms. But what about the non-smokers? Why should a non-smoker’s right to breathe clean air be condemned because you want to smoke in public? Smoking is a personal choice and people can choose to smoke or not to smoke, but others should not have to succumb to health risks resulting from inhaling second hand smoke. To find out if smoker’s rights are infringed upon it would make sense to look in the U.S. Constitution. Samantha K. Graff is a Staff Attorney at Public Health Law & Policy (PHLP) and answers smoker’s civil rights concerns in her synopsis “There is No Constitutional Right to Smoke: 2008”
“The Constitution lays out a set of civil rights that are specially protected, in that they generally cannot be abrogated by federal, state, county and municipal laws. Section I of this law synopsis explains that neither the Due Process Clause nor the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution creates a right to smoke. As a result, the Constitution leaves the door wide open for smoke-free laws and other tobacco-related laws that are rationally related to a legitimate government goal.”
So if the Constitution does not have issues with smoking bans why are the 11 states in the United States without smoking bans dragging their feet?
In additions to fears of infringed right, false allegations accuse smoking bans of hurting local economies and businesses. Numerous scientific and economic analyses have found that this claim to be untrue and that in some instances areas experienced a small increase in restaurant employment. For example, in 2010 Kansas employed the Clean Indoor Act, a statewide ban prohibiting smoking in restaurants, bars, places of employment, and outdoor smoking close to doorways. The measure received protest from some restaurant and bar owners saying it would hurt business. However, after the KHI compared restaurant and bar sales eight years before the statewide ban and two years after, they discovered that sales continued to increase. With this evidence the Kansas Health Institute analysis concluded that “there is no apparent evidence that smoking bans in Kansas have been associated with a decrease in statewide restaurant and bar sales, or with a decrease in the number of establishments serving liquor.” This discovery of sales increase also was true for caterers, private clubs, alcoholic beverage licenses as bars, hotels and winery outlets and microbreweries. In addition to these findings in Kansas, 216 smoke-free cities across nine states analyzed on employment data in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease found that smoking bans do not have significant adverse economic consequences on restaurants or bars.
Because local businesses and economies could experience boosts from smoking bans and smoker’s rights are not constitutionally infringed upon, smoke-free laws should be a constant across all states in the United States. These laws also reduce the consumption of second hand smoke, reduce wastes, decrease possibilities of fires, and lessen the chance of others taking on the habit. Law makers in the 11 states without smoking bans should be encouraged and pressured to pass smoke-free legislation to facilitate clean and healthy communities.
“Asthma and Secondhand Smoke.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 01 Sept. 2015. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.
“In Defense of Smokers.” In Defense of Smokers. The Heartland Institute, 3 Sept. 2014. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.
Rothschild, Scott. “Study: Kansas’ Smoking Ban Hasn’t Affected Business in Restaurants, Bars.” LJWorld.com. Lawrence Journal-World, 25 Jan. 2013. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.
Samantha K. Graff, Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, There is No Constitutional Right to Smoke: 2008 (2d edition, 2008).
“Secondhand Smoke.” Health Effects. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.