What are the advantages and disadvantages of banning smoking in public places?
Medical studies suggest that smoking can lead to serious health problems for both the person smoking and the person sitting next to him. Keeping these statistics in mind, governments all over the world have implemented bans on smoking tobacco in public places, to the joy of non-smokers and the dismay of those for whom a cigarette is a permanent extension of the lips.
Tobacco smoke contains carbon monoxide, a gas which - if inhaled - can severely reduce the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood. It does so by combining with the blood pigment haemoglobin and preventing it from carrying the oxygen it was supposed to.
This action of carbon monoxide displays one great advantage of the ban on smoking in public places. People standing next to the smoker will, against their wishes, be inhaling the tobacco smoke emanating from the tip of the cigar or cigarette as well as that exhaled by the smoker. Thus, large quantities of carbon monoxide will be entering the "victim's" blood stream, wreaking havoc with his red blood cells.
Tobacco smoke has also been shown to contain certain carcinogenic compounds which have the ability to mutate the DNA of anyone who inhales them, leading to probable cancers of the lungs, mouth and throats, and also secondary cancers at other sites in the body. These effects present another case in favour of the ban on smoking in public. Un-enlightened people standing next to the smoker will be increasing their risk of getting cancer tenfold.
Tobacco smoke also contains nicotine, a chemical which produces the same effects as adrenaline in the body. Nicotine increases the breathing rate, heart beat and blood pressure of the person who consumes it. Increased blood pressure may lead to hardening of the arteries, a condition called arthero sclerosis. Thus another advantage of the ban comes to light. Non-smokers who unwittingly inhale "second-hand" smoke are exposed to nicotine and its harmful effects.
Apart from the evident medical and health advantages of the ban on smoking in the public, certain social advantages also come to mind. It is a well known fact that children, having impressionable minds, emulate almost everything they see their elders doing. The negative impact of seeing an adult smoking could ultimately lead these children to becoming smokers themselves. And the chances of such sightings increase manifold in public places where smoking is allowed.
Countries which provide free medical aid for their citizens have an added advantage, a monetary one. Respiratory illnesses caused by inhaling tobacco smoke are on the rise, resulting in an increase in the amount of money spent on medical care by these countries. Most of the people suffering from these illnesses are non-smokers exposed to 'second-hand' smoke. By banning the smoking of any form of tobacco in public, the incidence of these illnesses is greatly decreased, thus saving millions which may be directed towards other projects.
The only disadvantage of the ban that comes to mind is that the smoker finds himself unable to exercise his right to choose, his freedom as a democratic citizen, fully. It is certainly an infringement on the rights of the smoker, rights which are guaranteed to any and all citizens of a democratic country. But one feels it is unjustified. The smoker cannot and should not force his smoking upon anyone, he should care for the rights of others as well. The rights of so few cannot be given preference over the rights of so many.
All in all, the ban on smoking in public is a step in the right direction, towards a better future for us and the generations to come. All steps possible should be taken to discourage tobacco smoking, a potentially hazardous habit which may lead to death. We owe it to ourselves to do so.