Public smoking bans
BY Sarah Clune
Smoking on the beach has become more difficult in recent years due to new smoking bans. But who and what are these bans meant to protect? Photo by Cal Crary/Getty Images
Summer has officially begun and for many, it’s time for sun, sand and swimming. But don’t count on lighting up a cigarette while you’re at the beach.
Over the last few years, you may have noticed more “no smoking” signs have cropped up on parks and beaches. They’re part of a larger trend banning smoking at outside, public areas. In fact, smoking has been banned in 843 parks and more than 150 beaches in the last two decades.
What beachgoers probably aren’t thinking about is the ethics behind these bans, which began taking hold in the early 1990s.
Public health officials have long argued the bans are meant to eliminate dangers from secondhand, or “sidestream smoke, ” reduce the environmental impact of cigarette butts and to keep young, impressionable children from picking up on bad habits. Makes sense, right?
But a new article in this month’s Health Affairs looks at the shockingly slim evidence behind these bans.
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“I discovered the evidence was really weak, ” explained lead author Ronald Bayer, a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. “The evidence of harm to non-smokers on the beach or in a park from someone smoking is virtually non-existent.”
Bayer is points out that there is, however, an important public health benefit from such bans. “They make it more difficult for smokers to smoke, ” Bayer told us, “and contribute in an important way to the ‘denormalization’ of smoking.”
Bayer joined PBS NewsHour late last week to discuss the new study and the potential risks the rationale behind these bans have on future public health initiatives.