The effects of second-hand smoke have been well-known for decades; in fact, the Surgeon General warned the public about its dangers in 1972 (Schick & Glantz, 2005). Do people knowingly have the right to put others’ health at risk? No, they do not. Exposure to cigarette smoke is a public health risk. Therefore, smoking should be banned in all public places, nationwide.
There has been no attempt to impose a national smoking ban by the U.S. government. All current bans are in place because of state and local legislation. Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights lists the various state and local smoking laws that have emerged since the 1980s, and the regulations vary greatly (2010). This is extremely confusing. Some states have strict smoking bans in all public places, some states have regulations that vary from city to city, and some states have no public smoking bans at all. Some states have so many regulations it is hard to keep track of them all. For example, Kansas passed a state-wide smoking ban in 2010, but that ban still exempts tobacconists, private clubs, and casinos. Prior to the state-wide ban, it had numerous local bans; some included all restaurants and bars, but others exempted restaurants and bars that did not allow patrons under 18 (Koranda & Mann, 2010).
While almost half of the states have passed statewide bans, the exemptions often make the bans useless. For example, Missouri’s Health and Welfare statutes note that people can only smoke in “designated smoking areas” in public places, but a restaurant can have up to 30% of its space designated as a smoking area, and no separate ventilation is required (2010, Section 191.767). The areas not considered “public spaces” include “bars, taverns, restaurants that seat less than fifty people, bowling alleys and billiard parlors” and “any enclosed arena, stadium, or other facility which may be used for sporting events and which has a seating capacity of more than fifteen thousand persons” (2010, Section 191.769). A parent wanting to take a child bowling or an asthmatic wishing to attend a professional hockey game would be out of luck in Missouri since those areas are not subject to public smoking bans. Lenient states like Missouri may be impeding national legislation for a federal smoking ban. These states may be scared of smoking bans because of the fears of local business owners. What they may not realize, though, is that a national smoking ban would eliminate many of these fears.
Currently, the lack of a federal law means that states or regions wishing to impose bans have to worry about the impact on businesses. In 2007, Minnesota imposed a very strict state-wide smoking ban (Zdechlik, 2007).This is good, right? The problem is that the neighboring states did not have smoking bans at the time. Some bar owners feared that the bans would hurt their businesses (Erickson, n.d.). While any ban is better than none, a nation-wide ban is most effective for everyone.
Another concern of local...