*EPF209 02/21/2006
Americans Increasingly Opposed to Smoking in Public Places
(Bans aimed at protecting nonsmokers' health, not limiting smokers' freedom) (860)

By Stephen Kaufman
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Only a few years ago it would have been unimaginable that Virginia・・s State Senate would vote to ban smoking in bars, restaurants and other public places.・ But on February 13, in the U.S. state whose history and economy have been so closely tied to tobacco, and where tobacco industry giant Philip Morris is based, lawmakers in Richmond provided the latest evidence that Americans are losing their tolerance for what once was a symbol of their culture.

Although the measure is not expected to pass Virginia・・s House of Delegates, 11 U.S. states have enacted laws banning smoking in indoor public places, including bars and restaurants.・ The group Americans for Non-smokers・・ Rights reported at the end of 2005 that 39 percent of U.S. citizens now live in areas that ・・are covered by statewide or local laws limiting smoking.・・

The issue, according to many anti-smoking activists, is not a desire to curtail the freedom of smokers, but rather to protect the health of nonsmokers.

Gone are the advertising icons Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man from their former prevalence on U.S. billboards, replaced by anti-smoking ads under terms of the 1999 tobacco settlement.・ And smoking has been forbidden on all domestic U.S. flights, and the majority of flights to and from the United States, because of efforts on the part of groups like Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), founded by professor John F. Banzhaf, who teaches and practices public interest law at the George Washington University Law School in Washington.

In an interview with the Washington File, Banzhaf said it is without question that the American public has changed its attitude toward smoking and tobacco.

・・We are much less tolerant toward smoking.・ We are much more willing to ban smoking and to go far further than we would have only a few years ago,・・ he said.

Efforts to ban smoking have been developing since the early 1990s when research showed that secondhand smoke not only was an annoyance to nonsmokers, but actually was contributing to their death from lung cancer.・ Banzhaf said it now also is known that exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger a heart attack.

He said ASH serves as ・・the major nonsmokers rights organization in the United States・・ and as ・・a catalyst to bring and encourage legal and law-related actions to protect the rights of nonsmokers.・・

SUPPORT BUILDING FOR BANS ON OUTDOOR SMOKING

Having achieved success in prohibiting smoking in many indoor public areas in several states and localities, ASH now also is targeting outdoor smoking in public places on the grounds that tobacco smoke is a ・・toxic air contaminant・・ along the lines of dangerous automotive and industrial air pollutants.・

On January 26, the California Air Resources Board formally declared outdoor tobacco smoke to be a toxic air contaminant, an action which Banzhaf said would ・・trigger a complex legal mechanism ・・result[ing] in a lot more bans on smoking outdoors.・・・ Indeed, the city of Calabasas, California, passed a comprehensive secondhand smoke control ordinance on February 15 that bans smoking virtually everywhere outdoors, including sidewalks, streets, restaurant patios and parking lots.

・・The only place smoking is going to be permitted is what they call a few small ・・smokers・・ outposts,・・・・ he said, referring to small, well-marked areas that will be provided to smokers in some shopping malls.

Banzhaf said that within the next few years the majority of U.S. states will be ・・totally smoke free indoors,・・ with perhaps one or two that also have banned outdoor smoking, and speculated that the momentum would continue.

・・The ultimate goal is to have a smoke-free society, by which we don・・t mean that nobody will smoke, but it will be something like spitting which is not done politely in public,・・ he said.・ ・・We will not be tolerating it on public places, streets, outdoors or anywhere else.・・

The smoking bans, in addition to protecting the health of nonsmokers, also are discouraging many young people from taking up the habit, as well as influencing others to give it up.

The bans ・・are not only making it more inconvenient to be a smoker, but they turn the smoking message on its head,・・ he said.・

・・We used to get the message from everybody from James Bond to the ads that smoking made you sexy and sociable and sophisticated.・ Today all those no-smoking sections and no-smoking signs are sending just the opposite message to the kids.・ Smoking makes you stinky and smelly, not sociable.・ That combined with higher taxes is what is driving down teen consumption,・・ he said.

As the number of adult smokers in the United States continues to fall, Banzhaf says popular influence and pressure on local city and state governments to enact smoking bans is now ・・the major factor・・ in the goal of achieving a smoke-free society.

The text (http://www.cityofcalabasas.com/pdf/agendas/council/2006/021506/item2-O2006-217.pdf) (PDF, 12 pages) of the Calabasas ordinance is available on the city・・s Web site.

Additional information (http://www.ash.org/) about Action on Smoking and Health is available on the organization・・s Web site.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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