Well Being

Butt Out: Why Banning Outdoor Smoking Protects My Health And Human Rights

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Joining a growing list of cities around the world, New York City's smoking ban has now been extended to public parks and beaches. Violators will be handed a $50 fine, which will be enforced by park personnel, and is largely meant to protect citizens in public spaces who want to enjoy a bit of fresh air without the smell of formaldehyde and arsenic mixed in. Sounds divine and healthy to a non-smoker like me. Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in North America, so any steps taken to prevent it should be embraced. But cancer-stick enthusiasts are already saying it violates their civil liberties. Oh boo hoo, my heart bleeds for you. I, for one, think this ban should be extended to all patios as well. In fact, why is smoking still legal at all?

Just this past weekend, I was sitting on a patio in the sunshine, when a smoker sat down next to me and lit up. Of course the wind was blowing in my direction, so I got a lungful of toxic, body-destroying fumes. And the smoker actually had the nerve to give me the stink-eye when I tried to position myself out of their smoke-path and turn away. I felt like I was being shamed for not being “cool” enough to just take it. Smokers may be on the defensive about their civil liberties, but by virtue of smoking at all, they're treating everyone else's lungs like garbage dumps.

Many smokers make the argument that non-smokers can simply walk away; no need to ban their use of tobacco outdoors. I don't know about you, but I find it exceedingly difficult to know at any time what concentration of cigarette smoke is in the air I breathe, considering it's, ya know, invisible and all. I can walk away from a smoker (most of the time), but I can't avoid breathing air.

There's no debate that smoking is a virulent killer. Smokers know this, even the cigarette manufacturers and companies know this. So why should anyone protect this institution, when it does nothing but hurt society? Some countries like Bhutan and Peru have banned the sale of tobacco altogether, effectively prohibiting cigarettes and smoking at all. The Bhutanese are definitely onto something.

Stop hiding the behind the banner of “civil liberties.” You shouldn't be smoking in any place that non-smokers also occupy. Get outta my line of inhalation and smoke in your homes. Unless your house has already burned down from un-extinguished ash…in which case, what other incentive do you need to butt-out?

(Photo: ThinkStock)