Head To Head

Should smoking in outside public spaces be banned? No

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a2804 (Published 12 December 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2804
  1. Simon Chapman, professor of public health
  1. 1University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  1. sc{at}med.usyd.edu.au

    After success in stopping smoking in public buildings, campaigns are turning outdoors. George Thomson and colleagues (doi:10.1136/bmj.a2806) argue that a ban will help to stop children becoming smokers but Simon Chapman believes that it infringes personal freedom

    Indoor smoking bans draw their ethical authority from extensive research showing harm from prolonged and repeated exposures in homes and workplaces, over many years. By contrast, recent agitation to extend bans to outdoor settings like parks, car parks, beaches, and streets is supported by flimsy evidence. Brief exposures to others’ smoke can produce measurable physiological changes.1 2 However, acute exposure studies typically define brief as 15 to 30 minutes—considerably more than usual smoky encounters outdoors.3

    A recent paper concluded that outdoor smoke is rapidly attenuated but for those within half a metre of multiple smokers “between 8 and 20 cigarettes smoked sequentially could cause an incremental 24-hour particle exposure greater than . . . the 24-hour EPA [US Environmental Protection Agency] health-based standard for fine particles.”4 The authors referred to bar patios as where this …

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