The Smoking Ban Controversy

“Providing a smoking area within the same building with one ventilation system is like designating a urinating area in a swimming pool.”

CEBU had an existing ban on smoking in public establishments. The laudable goal was to have a smoke-free city by year 2006. Achieving this would earn Cebu the enviable distinction of being one of the healthiest cities and tourist spots in the world.

However, there were some city legislators who want to amend the ordinance to allow smoking after 9:00 P.M. and for the creation of smoking areas in shopping malls, restaurants, etc.

Do these obviously ignorant officials think that active and passive smoking cause cancers, cardiovascular and lung diseases only before 9:00 P.M., and that smoking after 9 PM would be safe? Do they honestly think that the smoking areas they have in mind will prevent the 4000 harmful (200 of them cancer-causing) chemicals in tobacco smoke from getting into the ventilation system and expose and hurt everyone in the premises, including non-smokers and children?

Are these the “right-thinking” public officials we voted into office, who swore to protect our interest and welfare? Why the ridiculous amendments? What in this issue is NOT clear? I bet even the kids in the kindergarten can see how ludicrous these proposed amendments are.

Unless the designated room is air-tight and totally excluded from the main building (of shopping malls, restaurants, stores, hospitals, public libraries, theaters, the workplace, etc.), and has a ventilation system of its own, it would be ineffective and useless. Providing a smoking area within the same building with one ventilation system is like designating a urinating area within a swimming pool. This is the same scientific and medical principle why the smoking ban in commercial airplanes also includes the toilets, besides all the cabins and the cockpit. A simple common sense.

The issue is crystal clear. Smoking and second hand-smoking or passive smoking (forced upon non-smokers and is actually more deadly) maim and kill millions in countries around the world, the Philippines included. This is today a medical fact supported by countless proven scientific studies, which even the tobacco companies have conceded to.

The simplest, totally cost-free, and medically effective solution is to allow smoking ONLY outside the public buildings. What could be more obvious? These city officials should be supportive and help these establishments implement the law instead of coming up with amendments that circumvent the ordinance and harm the people and hurt the business. Providing a smoking area in the building only encourages smoking. The inconvenience of stepping out of the building, hopefully, will even aid many smokers in their quest to quit smoking.

While I abhor smoking and inhaling secondhand tobacco smoke, I defend the right of smokers to smoke. That is their constitutional right…so long as the exercise of that right does not offend or hurt the people around them and infringe upon the rights of others. After all, non-smokers have their rights too: not to be exposed to the dangers of secondhand smoke. Where there is a conflict, the right of the non-smoker prevails. This is obvious and is the accepted legal tenet.

What is secondhand smoke?

Secondhand smoke is the fume that one involuntarily inhales after someone who smokes exhales it (called mainstream smokes), or the fume that goes directly to the atmosphere from the burning tobacco (cigarette, pipe or cigar) called side stream smoke. When non-smokers breathe in these smokes or fumes from other people’s cigarettes, cigars or pipes, this is involuntarily inhalation called passive smoking. Tobacco smoke contains about 4000 chemicals, 200 of them known poisons and carcinogens. Smoking around people is similar to spraying known poison gases into the atmosphere, victimizing and posing even greater health hazards to non-smokers.

Does passive smoking cause cancer?

Yes, active and passive smoking cause cancers, besides bronchitis, emphysema, heart attack, and stroke. In the United States, cancer victims of smoking, and family members of smokers who died from cigarette-related illness, have sued cigarette manufacturing companies, and have won millions in awards. While they vehemently denied it before, cigarette companies today have admitted in public that tobacco causes cancers and other lung illnesses. The courts have likewise ruled in a similar fashion in favor of victims of passive smoking (as in the airline stewardess’ case). In 1986, the Surgeon General of the United States reported that involuntary (passive) smoking can cause lung cancer in healthy non-smokers. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has now classified secondhand smoke as a known carcinogen (cancer-causing agent).

Does passive smoking hurt children and infants?

Young children and infants are more vulnerable to tobacco smokes and fumes. Pregnant women who smoke, pass these dangerous substances to the fetus, causing higher incidents of smaller babies, some with diminished mental acuity, and babies that are prone to frequent respiratory infections and asthmatic attacks

How about secondhand smoke at the workplace?

The U.S. Surgeon General’s Report of 1996 established that the simple separation of smokers and non-smokers within the same air space may reduce but NOT eliminate the risk of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (as in our swimming pool analogy). In view of this, an increasing number of state and local laws now totally restrict smoking at the workplace. More and more private companies and businesses, on their own, are also adopting policies that restrict smoking to protect everyone.


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