Down down, smoking is down

Excellent. Smoking rates are continuing to drop, from 21.2% in 1998 down to 15.3% now.

So, how about the next step, government? Now that smoking is almost entirely banned indoors, what about extending smoking bans to include all undercover areas — I’m thinking particularly of under shop awnings.

(If I ran the world, I’d be looking at smoking bans in highly trafficked outdoor areas, such as CBD and suburban shopping centre footpaths. And the following step might be banning it everywhere except in private homes and designated smoking rooms/areas. It’s one thing to have a bad habit; it’s another to have a bad habit that blows poisonous fumes into others’ faces.)

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

23 replies on “Down down, smoking is down”

Next step: ban local growing of tobacco. Only allow imports, only to registered manufacturers. Then jack up the prices – you won’t get any problems with chop-chop because it would now be as illegal as marijuana.

I disagree. I’m not a smoker, but I get a little tired of these types of incremental rule changes, pushed as they are by bureaucrats needing to justify their own existence. When is enough enough? And more importantly, shouldn’t people be given freedom to use what is ultimately a legal product?

If smoking is so bad, ban it entirely, rather than going for half measures.

I’d like a smoking ban on highly trafficked outdoor areas: I’m sick of dodging smokers who walk the streets holding their cigarette to their side, flailing their arms around and threatening to burn anyone who tries to squeeze past.

I agree with Marcus W. When Robert Doyle complained about the FCUK advert – I almost wrote into the paper to reply saying – if you want Melbourne to stay the Most Livable City – don’t worry about the adverts – just ban smoking in Alfresco dining areas and the CBD streets.

Tokyo was interesting. Although people could smoke inside in some areas, which were extremely well ventilated, smoking on the street was only in designated areas and it was widely observed. I suspect it may be as much to do with the dangers of a lit cigarette in crowds, rather than smoke being an issue.

Save us from the self righteous in the world, smoking is a bad habit and unhealthy but not a significant danger to others, why not leave these ppl alone until the use of tobacco becomes a historical anomaly?

Humans love to be addicted, doesn’t matter whether it’s beetle nuts, caffeine, alcohol, food, oxygen or water our bodies enjoy having it’s needs met even if those needs are artificially induced.

Markk, you can’t ban something all in one go; otherwise you get American prohibition. Instead, it needs to be progressive to let social change keep up. Maybe we could ban it today, but I suggest it would be politically intolerable for some time yet. The law needs to be obeyable to be respectable.

Ban smoking for everyone born after the year 2000.

It would get rid of all the ‘but it is a legal product’ arguments.

Ban smoking in Alfresco dining areas and the CBD streets would be a welcome next step. Why are we pandering to 15% of the population? Why can’t 85% of the population eat or have a coffee outside without being smoked out?

It’s one thing to have a bad habit; it’s another to have a bad habit that blows poisonous fumes into others’ faces.

Yeah, stupid drivers in their cars…

In all seriousness though, passive smoking does have health risks, but these are absolutely minuscule when you’re talking about breathing in someones smoke as you walk past them or sit near them while they smoke outside.

I’d much rather see the ban for everyone born after 2000 if government is serious about stopping smoking altogether.

Walking past smokers iritates my sinuses and eyes. It isn’t a long-term health issue for me, it is a short-term annoyance, that as someone working in the CBD, I can’t avoid smokers outside my building, or when I want to enjoy a small amount of sunlight in my lunch break.

Passive smoking was identified as a danger several years ago primarily because there was a lack of choice in some people’s exposure. People pulling a seven-hour shift in a closed environment such as a bar or restaurant could not avoid working in the smog of customers smoking. With both the medical evidence and OH&S laws catching up (and an increasingly litigious society suing employers), banning smoking inside closed spaces was the logical and right thing to do.

It wasn’t just staff of course; non-smoking customers weren’t ever going to be protected by so called designated ‘smoking’ and ‘non smoking’ sections (often just a curtain!). Performers at such venues had little choice either. A childhood hero of mine died after years of exposure to passive smoke playing in jazz clubs:

But this whole outside thing is seriously bordering on hysteria. @Dog’s Breath is right, there is no ‘significant’ danger if you momentarily walk through a smoker’s exhalation or happen to be down wind of them, as unpleasant as it is. You’re at as much risk from the cars driving by your kerbside cafe table or the V-Line emissions at Southern Cross.

The passive smoking issue has become twisted and misinterpreted. Anti-smoking has become anti-smoker. Regardless of what you do in life, how you contribute to society in other ways – living green, volunteering your time for a good cause and so on – if you smoke, you’re vilified as a stinking, disgusting polluter, with little will-power and and even less consideration for people around you.

But many smokers I know do adjust their behaviour depending on the situation, will actively move away from non-smokers to have a cigarette or simply not smoke at all. Do not assume that everyone who is not smoking in an al fresco dining area is therefore a non-smoker. Several will be smokers who choose not to smoke at that time out of consideration to others. Similarly, for every smoker who carelessly butts out on the floor even when they’re stood a metre from a bin or ashtray, there’s plenty more who wouldn’t dream of doing it and find it disgusting. Not all smokers are the same.

There has been some recent talk of banning smoking in Rundle Mall – had the ABC talk back in a frenzy! The Mayor, or someone from Council, was realistic enough to say that banning it is one thing, enforcing it is quite another. I remember smoking being everywhere when I was a kid and not really noticing it. All the small incremental steps of enforced change in our social habits has signifcantly reduced my exposure and now I think I can smell cigarette smoke from 10 metres away and it makes me feel ill. Maybe it is because we are not as populated as some cities, but it very rarely happens that I am annoyed by smoke, so I don’t really think we need more ‘rules’ about when and where people can smoke.

The 15% of the population that do smoke sure do make a big mess littering the environment with their butts. It is almost impossible to look down outdoors in the CBD (and other parts of the city too) and not see a cigerette butt on the ground nearby.

Let me finish that for you Jed:

….next to the McDonalds/KFC/RedRooster wrapper, Coke/Pepsi/Mother/V can, nestled up against the chip bag, tucked under the chocolate wrapper, next to the plastic wrapper from the morning paper….

You can’t forgive one indiscretion whilst vilifying another.

@Daniel, reading the links you supplied, it reinforces Marc’s comment that passive smoking in an enclosed environment should not be tolerated because it affects others but in an open environment impacts are negligible, the foam at the mouth anti smokers who think there should be a blanket ban where ppl can only smoke in their own homes is ridiculous and mean spirited.

@Marc is right — many smokers are actually pretty considerate of others, though some are somewhat thoughtless.

@Dogs Breath, I’m afraid that even if there’s negligible (but not zero) health risk, I’m still not understanding why I should have to put up with having to breathe unpleasant smelly smoke, or have stinking hair and clothes inflicted upon me.

And one of *my* pet hates, as a non-smoking, asthmatic wheelchair user, is people walking along footpaths (and Malls) holding their lit cigarette down by their side – which is right in line with my face!

In Seattle, we have an ordinance that prohibits smoking within 25 feet of a doorway, giving you a chance to dodge around smokers instead of having to walk out into a cloud of smoke.

As an ex-smoker, though, it really hits home every time I’m in an elevator with someone who just finished their smoke break. They stink up the whole elevator, but because smoking has both dulled their sense of smell and they’ve also been wallowing in the stink and have gotten used to it, they don’t even realize how bad they smell. When I smell them and realize the stink I used to inflict on people, it helps me keep from going back.

But the real thing is once we legislate against smoking in open air areas, what’s next? Do we ticket people for wearing too much cologne? Can we have the police arrest anyone with excessive body odor and have them washed with a firehose? The health impact of the glancing contact with passive smoke is negligible and the real issue is one of offended senses, but there are things people do that offend our senses all the time. It’s one of those things we have to put up with in a free society.

@Greg, take your point about over legislating. Mind you, 25 feet (about 7.5 metres) of a doorway would effectively rule out smoking on many city footpaths around here.

I’m a non-smoker, and used to hate the reek of my hair and clothes after being out at a club or pub (those days are mostly behind me now, *sniff*)… but I have to agree with many here that rabid anti-smoker sentiment is getting a bit emotional. I have to say that the last couple of times I ate “al fresco”, I was too disturbed by the fumes, dust and noise from passing vehicles to be able to notice any cigarette smoke. I definitely don’t enjoy the whole sidewalk cafe experience if said cafe is next to a major road – cigarette smoke is the least of my issues at these places.

Well I do wonder how effective the indoors ban is. I was recently at a local pub in the restaurant section (enclosed) with family and they may as well have just allowed smoking in there. It stank of smoke which was apparently coming in from the smoking rooms. I complained and asked for the door to the restaurant to be closed (this seemed to be where the smoke was coming in from) but they wouldn’t do that. I then followed up with a call to the local council health inspector who carried out an inspection but admitted that the pub was compliant with the regulations. In this instance the regulations seem to be of little value.

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