The New York administration has taken up implementation of anti-smoking legislature in a competent manner. It is the third state after Delaware and California to issue anti-smoking legislature banning the use of tobacco products in public places with effect from April 2008.
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As a result of this, it is expected that bar and restaurants would become healthier places with the absence of second hand smoke, which is considered to be a major health hazard in recent times. There have been instances in USA, of people dying of health conditions, caused directly by inhalation of second hand smoke over a period of time. “The study also found that air pollution levels had decreased sixfold in bars and restaurants after the ban went into effect, and that New Yorkers had reported less secondhand smoke in the workplace.” (Elliott, 2004).
How has the recent ban on smoking in bar and restaurant affected life in this State?
If one were to consider the ethical aspects of smoking in bars, it is seen that smoke in bars etc., carry same elements of health hazards that people working, say in asbestos manufacturing units, or coal mines carry. When people working in asbestos units and coal mines could live with hazards, then why cannot bar and restaurant workers live with the hazard of possibly passive smoking?
It could be termed as an occupational hazard, and with present legislation, it is seen that recent studies confirm that there has been growth and development in the bar and restaurant industry, despite the ban on smoking.
However, air pollution has decreased significantly and has the danger of inhaling second hand smoke, caused by other smokers.
“An average of 164,000 people was employed in restaurants and bars in 2003, the highest number in at least a decade. Since the smoking ban took effect last March 30, employment in bars and restaurants has risen by 10,600 jobs, taking into account seasonal fluctuations, according to the report.” (Elliott, 2004).
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Utility aspects in ban on smoking
However, the ban on smoking in bars and restaurants raises serious ethical, utility and deonatical issues. Since smoking bans have been restricted to only major public places, the leverage offered to places that have overlooked in smoking bans are a matter of public debate. For instance if smoking is disallowed in bars and restaurants but allowed in discotheques, it raises moral issues of encouraging youngsters to smoke. Similarly the laws need to be Federal ones that could be equally applied in all states, and not left to individual states to decide on whether or not to enforce smoking bans or not, and the extent and degree to which bans could be enforceable.
Moreover, another aspect that needs to be considered is that, according to most observers, it is necessary to have independent studies on bars and restaurants, in order to reach correct decisions. It is believed that the negative impact of smoking on bars could be higher than that on restaurants, because people who come for drinks now need to light up outside, thus causing loss of revenue for alcoholic drinks. In the event there is no ban, smoking and drinking would be simultaneously done, and the bar owners would not suffer loss due to liquor sales falling due to smoking outside. However, in the present context, time spend outside by bar patrons for smoking could cause revenue losses to bars owners.
However, it is seen that the bans on smoking in bars and restaurants could substantially improve the quality of air that is circulated in thee closed places. In as far as New York is concerned, it is seen that “The state bans smoking in most businesses, including restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, dance clubs and pool halls. It is backed by fines. Indian casinos are exempted.” (Smoke free USA: States and territories of USA, 2009).
Deonatical issues in non-smoking
Coming to the deonatical issues of non-smoking in bars and restaurants, it is seen that it is needed for the following reasons:
- Smoking in bars and restaurants generate a lot of smoke that is inhaled by non-smokers also. The inhalation of second hand smoke or passive smoking is as dangerous as actual smoking.
- It pollutes the closed ventilated area in that tobacco smoke linger in the atmosphere long after the smoking is over, creating health hazards for non-smoking work force and customers of such bars and restaurants.
- In restaurants, if elements of tobacco enter consumable food through ash, butts, etc. it could cause toxic diseases for individuals.
- Smoking may be a primary cause for fires in bars and restaurants.
- Passive inhalation could be dangerous for pets, pregnant women and the unborn fetus.
- Smoking in bars and restaurants could have long term effects on the health of non-smoking workforce and other customers.
- “More than 1 million New Yorkers are still smoking, and nearly 9,000 are dying from smoking-related disease every year.” (Anti smoking campaign a huge success in New York City, 2007).
Survey results need to differentiate between bars and restaurants
However, it is necessary to bifurcate the smoking incidence between bars and restaurants in US in order to get a clear perspective about the problem, It is seen that present research surveys combines both bars and restaurants; it is seen that the incidence of smoking in bars is considerably higher than compared to restaurants. “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP), the U.S. Surgeon General, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have classified secondhand smoke as a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing agent).” (Secondhand smoke: Questions and answers: Does exposure to secondhand smoke cause cancer, 2007).
The other deontological challenges to the administration could be in terms of the fact that smoking alcoholics in a smoking banned bar or restaurant would drive over to the neighboring state where non-smoking laws are not applied. Further it is seen that these kind of cross border movements could increase the risks of accidents on the roads. For instance, smokers in Delaware may move across to
neighboring Pennsylvania, for a smoke and drink. “This might impose an increased danger to drivers in border counties of both states. In fact, some bar owners have blamed their loss of business on cross border shopping.” (Adams & Cotti, n.d, p.5).
It is necessary to take a balanced approach regarding impact of non smoking zones in bars and restaurants. This has been further limited by the lack of separate statistical data regarding repercussions on bars and again, consequences on restaurants. While bar business may have gone down, due to smokers taking drinks in non-prohibited areas, the effects on restaurants may not be significantly reduced due to the fact that smoking and consuming food are not as connected as smoking and drinking.
Hence, it may be concluded that further research needs to be taken up to quantify the losses (if any) incurred due to the implementation of non-smoking laws in bars and restaurants in New York.
It is also to be ascertained whether clandestine smoking is carried out without the knowledge of the law enforcers, and in certain cases, with the connivance of the smoking prohibition officials.
It is also necessary to substantiate claims through extensive and appropriate research studies both at the micro and macro level, that banning smoking does contribute towards better cleaner air and healthier life style for the non-smokers, and improves the quality of air at the workplace.
Ethical and moral issues relating to human rights and freedom to act according to a person’s free will are two seemingly contradictory axioms. While a person’s privileged right to act is unquestionable, but it should not transgress the privileges or detrimentally affect the health of others.
This is an important consideration both from the deontological and ethical point of view in that society should not be at sufferance to accomplish the pleasures of others.
Adams, Scott., & Cotti, Chad. (n.d.). Drunk driving after the passage of smoking bans in bars. 5. Web.
Anti smoking campaign a huge success in New York City. (2007). Medical News Today. Web.
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Elliott, Andrea. (2004). Bars and restaurants thrive amid smoking ban, study says. The New York Times. Web.
Secondhand smoke: Questions and answers: Does exposure to secondhand smoke cause cancer. (2007). National Cancer Institute. Web.
Smoke free USA: States and territories of USA. (2009). Smoke Free World. Web.