The real motivation behind smoking bans, revisited

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cigaretteEarlier this month, we reported on research done by Ronald Bayer and Kathleen Bachynski at Columbia s Mailman School of Public Health, looking at the scientific justification for banning smoking in parks and on beaches. The conclusion they came to was that the evidence was slim to non-existent. In an article in Forbes, ACSH scientific advisor Dr. Geoffrey Kabat agrees with this conclusion and further highlights the real motivation behind these smoking bans.

Despite the fact that bans on smoking in public places such as bars, restaurants and offices have been accompanied by declines in smoking rates from 42 percent of the population to about 20 percent, the pushing aside of science cannot be ignored. As Bayer and Bachynski concluded from their research, these bans are part of a concerted effort to de-normalize smoking to increasingly restrict the places in which smoking can take place and thereby progressively make it less feasible and less socially acceptable more weird.

Kabat adds, As smoking has become less socially acceptable, it has gone from being viewed as merely a dirty and unhealthy habit to being seen in moral and even existential terms as revolting and disgusting, as tainted with evil and pollution.

ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan is in complete agreement with these conclusions, as she has stated previously. We in public health must be completely honest about what the motivation is and whether there is scientific evidence, or a lack thereof, to support these proposed regulations, otherwise we are putting ourselves at risk of losing the trust of the public. As much as I find smoking on beaches unpleasant, until there is scientific evidence to back regulation, or until we can be prepared to reformulate the argument used to defend this regulation, these bans will result in a loss of credibility.