by Rebecca Kleinschmidt
March 02, 2004
There has been a lot of International, National, and local press recently regarding Smoke Free Ordinances. Entire countries, including Ireland, Norway, Bhutan, New Zealand, and Sweden no longer allow tobacco use in public places. Six states have done the same, and at least eleven cities and villages in Alaska have also made a statement for community health by passing ordinances to limit exposure to secondhand smoke.
Ordinances such as this appear to be controversial. However, from a public health standpoint, there is no debating the health benefits reaped from requiring public buildings and entrances to be smoke free.
Second hand smoke kills over 53,000 non-smoking Americans each year due to tobacco related diseases. Some of us can make the choice not to frequent establishments that allow smoking. Those whose financial situation limits this flexibility are not so fortunate. Many young or less educated individuals feel they cannot afford to turn down employment even when it compromises their health. As a result, they may experience acute and or chronic health problems such as frequent ear infections and respiratory infections, asthma attacks, and finally, devastating cardiovascular and cerebrovascular attacks.
The subject of smokefree ordinances brings up concern regarding personal freedoms and rights. Many current health policies set aside the rights of the individual in order to safeguard what is best for the collective community. Take for example regulations requiring vaccinations before registration at public schools, laws prohibiting driving while drunk, and food preparation standards for public kitchens. These are all policies that safeguard our safety, and well-being. A local smokefree ordinance would do the same.
We are not asking elected officials to take away a person's freedom to smoke. We are simply asking, for public health benefits, to prevent public exposure to lethal secondhand smoke by limiting the locations in which a person can exercise his or her right to smoke.
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