Smoking Bans in Workplaces and Public Spaces


Smoking bans are public policies, including criminal laws and occupational safety and health regulations, which restrict tobacco smoking in workplaces and public spaces.

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Research has generated evidence that secondhand smoke causes the same problems as direct smoking, including lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and lung ailments such as emphysema, bronchitis, and asthma. Specifically, meta-analyses show that lifelong non-smokers with partners who smoke in the home have a 20–30% greater risk of lung cancer than non-smokers who live with non-smokers. Non-smokers exposed to cigarette smoke in the workplace have an increased lung cancer risk of 16–19%.

In 1975, the U.S. state of Minnesota enacted the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act, making it the first state to ban smoking in most public spaces. To begin with, restaurants were required to have No Smoking sections, and bars were exempt from the Act. As of 1 October 2007, Minnesota signed into law a ban on smoking completely from all restaurants and bars throughout the state. This is the Freedom to Breathe Act of 2007. In 1990, the city of San Luis Obispo, California, U.S.A. became the first city in the world to ban indoor smoking at all public places, including bars and restaurants.

In America, the success and subsequent popularity of the ban enacted by the state of California in 1998 encouraged other states such as New York to implement bans of their own. California’s smoking ban included an initially controversial ban of smoking in bars, extending the statewide workplace smoking ban enacted in 1994. There are now 35 states with some form of the smoking ban on the books.[5]. In addition, some areas in California have recently begun making whole cities smoke-free, which would include every place except residential homes. More than 20 cities in California have passed park and beach smoking bans.

Arguments For

under Supreme Court precedent, a federal ban on cigarettes passed by Congress would almost unquestionably be constitutional. Federal drug regulations operate under the authority of Article, Section 8, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution, better known as the Commerce Clause, which reads:

The Congress shall have the Power To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes.

Laws regulating the possession of banned substances have also been found narrowly constitutional, on the basis that state-by-state legalization would constitute de facto nullification of federal laws regulating interstate commerce. This view was most recently upheld 6-3 in Gonzales v. Raich (2004). As Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the majority. Congress could have rationally concluded that the aggregate impact on the national market of all the transactions exempted from federal supervision is unquestionably substantial.

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Argument against

The individual right to privacy should allow people to harm their own bodies with dangerous drugs, should they choose to do so. While the government has the power to enact public smoking bans, there is no legitimate basis for laws restricting private smoking. We may as well pass laws prohibiting people from eating too much, or sleeping too little, or skipping medication, or taking on high-stress jobs.


“The government will concentrate on teenagers and persuading them not to start smoking in the first place. Consideration is being given to restricting the display of cigarettes to ensure they are not seen in newsagents but kept under the counter. “Consideration is also being given to restricting or even not allowing the sale of packets of 10 cigarettes. We are also looking at the removal of vending machines in pubs. “The aim is to reduce access to cigarettes in this group.” In April, the British Medical Association (BMA) urged the government to introduce laws to cut smoking among teenagers and described the display of cigarettes in shops as a form of advertising.

Government statistics show most underage smokers buy cigarettes in packs of 10. Internal tobacco industry documents confirm the smaller packs are mainly bought by young smokers, described as “new entrants” because they are cheaper. Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France, and 14 states of America have already banned their sale. Government research has also shown teenagers find it easier to buy cigarettes from vending machines than from shops. A voluntary code agreed with the National Association of Cigarette Machine Operators is supposed to ensure machines are placed only in supervised areas so that underage smokers cannot buy cigarettes, but research suggests about a quarter of all regular underage smokers usually obtain their cigarettes from vending machines.


  1. Boyle P, Autier P, Bartelink H, et al.. “European Code Against Cancer and scientific justification: third version (2003).”. Ann Oncol.
  2. Sasco AJ, Secretan MB, Straif K. (2004). “Tobacco smoking and cancer: a brief review of recent epidemiological evidence.”. Lung Cancer.
  3. Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act (MCIAA). Minnesota Department of Health.
  4. Letter to Nebraska Senators from San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce in favor of Smoke free Legislation. 2007.
  5. How many Smoke free Laws? 2006.
  6. The Official Website of Joe Jackson. 2007.
  7. “The Land of Smoke-Easies, $500 Barfs” The San Francisco Chronicle, 1998.
  8. Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights – Australia.
  9. Proctor, RN (Fall 1997). “The Nazi war on tobacco: ideology, evidence, and possible cancer consequences”.
  10. Tom Head(“Your Guide to Civil Liberties) New York 2001.
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