A new report by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) calls for policies to protect children from ever having to see smokers.
The report "identifies ways in which smoke-free legislation could be improved to afford greater protection to children. Most importantly, it calls for a radical rethink of the acceptability of smoking anywhere in the presence of children. One of the biggest impacts of smoking around children is that adult smokers can be seen as role models, increasing the likelihood that the child will, in due course, also become a regular smoker."
The report calls for smoking bans in "outdoor places frequented by children."
According to the report: "One of the biggest impacts of smoking around children is that adult smokers can be seen as role models, increasing the likelihood that the child will, in due course, also become a regular smoker. ... The existing smoke-free legislation protects children in enclosed public places but does not prevent exposure to smoke, or to smoking behavioural models, in the home, in vehicles, in unenclosed public places, and the many other places where children spend time. ... All of the harms caused by passive smoking, including the direct health effects and effects on smoking uptake summarised above, are preventable by protecting children from exposure not just to cigarette smoke, but from exposure to smokers."
The report concludes: "Children are potentially exposed to passive smoking wherever people smoke, and to the smoking behavioural model wherever they see people smoking. The extension of smoke-free regulations to include areas frequented by children, as outlined in section 11.1 above, would prevent both of these exposures. ... Smoke-free legislation should therefore include all public places frequented by children, whether or not enclosed as currently defined in law, and
should include private vehicles."
The Rest of the Story
It is now official. The tobacco control movement is now using the protection of children from having to see smokers as a justification for promoting bans on smoking in outdoors locations. The Royal College of Physicians readily admits that it is not about the smoke, it is about the smoker. The goal now is to protect children not merely from exposure to tobacco smoke, but from even having to see a smoker in public.
Since children frequent virtually all outdoor places, if one follows the Royal College of Physicians' recommendation, one would have to ban smoking everywhere outdoors. Essentially, then, the RCP is calling for a ban on smoking everywhere outdoors.
The same justification being used to support banning smoking in cars could be used to support banning smoking in the home. If the government is justified in telling parents that they cannot expose children to tobacco smoke in cars, then why is the government not justified in telling parents they cannot expose children to tobacco smoke in homes?
By the RCP's reasoning, smoking should literally be banned everywhere except inside homes in which no child lives.
The problem with the RCP report is that it undermines the justification for smoking bans where they are really needed (i.e., in the workplace) by obfuscating the actual reason to promote such bans (i.e., to protect nonsmokers from high levels of exposure to tobacco smoke that they cannot easily avoid).
Curiously, the RCP is not also calling on prohibiting people from eating junk food in places where they can be seen by children. But the same reasoning that would justify banning smoking outdoors (to prevent children from having to see smokers) would also justify banning the consumption of junk food in public (to prevent children from having to see the consumption of junk food).
The rest of the story is that the Royal College of Physicians has gone off the deep end and lost sight of the real art of public health: balancing the protection of health with individual freedom and autonomy. With that, they are going to undermine important efforts to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke because they are obscuring and undermining the justified elimination of secondhand smoke from places where nonsmokers are heavily and chronically exposed and cannot easily avoid the exposure. They are also undermining the field of public health itself by completely losing sight of the need to balance health protection with individual freedom and autonomy.
(Thanks to Ann W. for the tip.)