Smoking is now widely regarded as an activity that can be associated with numerous health risks, not only for the individual engaging in the activity but also for those who are in the immediate vicinity and thus must partake of what has been termed ‘second-hand smoke’. For these reasons it has been determined in a variety of different venues and states that smoking in public and public-use places such as libraries and government offices, restaurants, and shopping malls should be banned. Smokers argue this is an unreasonable restriction on their freedoms, restricting their right to enjoy a nice smoke after dinner or while enjoying the outdoors, especially in light of the fact that many indoor areas have already placed a ban on smoking indoors.
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Secondhand smoke is defined as the smoke that an individual inhales as a result of someone else’s smoking nearby. While some, mainly tobacco companies and inconsiderate smokers argue that the danger from this smoke is minimal, other more credible sources have identified several properties of secondhand smoke that make it clear this form of smoke is as potent and therefore as dangerous as the smoke the smoker is inhaling into his or her lungs. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, smoke inhaled through the filter of a cigarette has only half of the tar and nicotine that can be found in a similar-sized cloud of secondhand smoke. So many studies have provided evidence that second-hand smoke is harmful that the subject is common knowledge and hardly arguable. It has also been shown that non-smoking women married to heavy smokers are more likely than non-smoking women married to non-smokers to develop lung cancer. Workers who were often exposed to repeated and extended exposure to secondhand smoke such as bartenders and waitresses also demonstrate a greater risk of lung cancer, with the chances becoming increasingly likely with the number of years employed in such environments. Children exposed to high levels of secondhand smoke are susceptible to greater instances of bronchitis, pneumonia and other respiratory infections, chronic ear infections, and asthma.
Children often suffer serious harm as a result of being exposed to secondhand smoke. As a consequence of their actions in lighting up a cigarette in a public space, knowing the consequences of secondhand smoke, and infringing on others’ rights to breathe clean air, smokers are engaging in activity that could be considered criminal behavior. Smoking is harmful whether first or second-hand as if everyone doesn’t know this.
Although smoking has not yet become recognized as constituting criminal rights infringement upon nonsmoking neighbors, officemates, and children, it is clear that smoking should be banned from public places nationwide. This ban not only serves to enforce the law regarding dangerous or harmful activity upon others but also serves to increase the health of the nation. Smokers are infringing upon the rights and freedoms of the nonsmokers by insisting that public places be filled with deadly, cancer-causing toxins. Since one group of the two must have their rights revoked, it is better to err on the side of health and justice for the greater good of all.