Tuesday, January 27, 2009

American Lung Association of California Pushing for Smokefree Sidewalks; Nova Scotia Town Follows Just That Advice

It is now official. The mainstream tobacco control movement is now pushing for an extension of smoke-free protections to the outdoors and specifically -- to sidewalks. The American Lung Association of California has released its 2008 State of Tobacco Control report, and one of its criteria in grading the strength of anti-smoking laws is "smoking restrictions on sidewalks in commercial areas." Another criterion is "smoking restrictions at parks, beaches, trails, sports fields, and other similar recreation areas."

Following this advice, the Nova Scotia town of Truro recently banned smoking on a downtown street. Earlier, the town of Bridgewater in Nova Scotia had banned smoking on "all public property, including streets, parks, and other recreational areas. The bylaw was softened from a previous proposal to ban smoking outdoors in the whole community."

The Rest of the Story

The importance of this story is that the push to extend smoking bans to widespread outdoor areas where nonsmokers can easily avoid substantial exposure to secondhand smoke and where there has not been scientific documentation of any serious public health problem is now officially a part of the mainstream tobacco control movement, not simply the whim of an extremist outlying organization. While it was my feeling that these policies were being supported by many tobacco control groups, this is the first official documentation of an organized movement to promote such policies.

Apparently, there has been an official shift in the goal of the nonsmokers' rights movement (unbeknownst to me). Rather than simply trying to protect nonsmokers from the serious health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke, the movement is now trying to protect nonsmokers from having to even see a smoker.

The movement has gone too far, and in doing so, it has crossed the line from being a public health movement to being a moral crusade. It has gone beyond the science and instead of controlling exposure to secondhand smoke, it is now attempting to control lifestyle (follow the link on the mychoice.ca website to hear my interview on AM640 Toronto which discusses this transformation in more detail).

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