I’ve mostly stayed out of this debate because it has the potential to turn ugly and because I have many dear friends who do smoke and because usually smoke does not bother me that much. However, I will make the following several points:
1. While I do accept that smoking is an individual’s choice and right, and that right should not be taken away from him/her, I also have a low level of tolerance for the infringement of the legitimate rights of others.
2. So, there are competing rights at issue. The right of the non-smoker to breathe reasonably clean air vs. the right of the smoker to breathe smoke and smoke-filled air.
There isn’t much to say regarding the right of the non-smoker to breathe reasonably clean air. This is a reasonable right, is it not? I think we can all agree on that, no?
However, we should look at the right of the smoker to breathe smoke and smoke-filled air. Individually, yes, the smoker has the right, IMO, to breathe smoke and smoke-filled air. But, does he have the right to pollute the air that he shares with the non-smoker and thus deprive the non-smoker of his right to breathe reasonably clean air? I think not.
Some smokers assert that the non-smoker’s demand to his right to breathe reasonably clean air infringes the smoker’s right to breathe smoke and smoke-filled air. I think this is a difficult assertion for smokers to maintain.
Take for example, the pub setting. Have both the non-smoker and smoker the right to visit the pub? I think yes. As such, should the respective right of either the non-smoker or the smoker prevail? There is no question that the non-smoker will be placed at risk of at least annoyance and at worst serious health problems (even if only temporary) if the smoker’s right prevails. If, on the other hand, the non-smoker’s right prevails, the smoker will be at risk of suffering the (real) annoyance that accompanies an inability to smoke for a certain period of time. However, the smoker will not suffer any risk to his health by being unable to smoke for a brief period of time. And what are the options available to each party? If the smoker’s right prevails, the non-smoker can either leave the smoke-filled pub, breathe smoke, or hold his breath. If the non-smoker’s right prevails, the smoker can either leave the clean-air pub, breathe clean air, or hold his breath. I don’t think either party should have to leave the pub (its for drinking!) and I don’t think either party should have to hold his breath. Thus, which is more unnatural/unfair… the smoker being forced to breathe clean air or the non-smoker being forced to breathe smoke-filled air?
I think the right of the non-smoker should prevail over the right of the smoker in places where both the non-smoker and smoker have an equally legitimate right to visit.
3. Now, many smokers (and even non-smokers) will contend that banning smoking from pubs and restaurants unfairly harms the business owner. I think this is often true. Nonetheless, I think it is not a valid argument. I know many people disagree with me on this point, but, I look at the issue as analogous somewhat to the situation that is dealt with by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)… sort of… :s Generally, when a business owner opens his place of business to the public, he must adhere to many rules and regulations that exist for the purpose of protecting the safety and health of his patrons (such as food preparation and handling requirements as well as basic structural safety installations such as fire detectors/sprinkler systems and or clearly marked and unobstructed fire escapes/exits). The ADA further requires that (some) businesses which open their doors to the public also take measures to make their places of business friendly to patrons with special physical needs/limitations. There are many people who are at least annoyed by smoke and many others who are seriously adversely affected by smoke. If such people who do not well tolerate smoke have an equal right to visit such businesses, why should smoking patrons be permitted to engage in behavior that adversely affects the non-smoking patrons? That is, why should the smokers’ rights prevail over the non-smokers’ rights?
That is the only issue, IMO, that should be addressed. Bringing in the business owner’s concern re his business is relevant only to the business owner and his ability to earn a profit from his venture… but, it is not relevant to the issue of whose rights, the non-smokers’ or the smokers’, should prevail.
If smoking were banned inside all pubs and restaurants, would smokers cease going to pubs and restaurants? Perhaps some would. I think most would continue to go and would exit the premises to smoke, if necessary.
OK… let the flaming/smoking begin. I’m already ducking!