Friday, January 27, 2006

Supporting Outdoor Smoking Bans Based on Pollution Threat Probably Not a Good Idea

As an article in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports, the problem of pollution from cigarette butts has apparently increased dramatically after the implementation of the state's ban on workplace smoking.

According to the article: "Keeping the streets of Seattle clean has gotten a lot tougher in recent weeks for the men and women in the bright green vests who are charged with sweeping up downtown. Cigarette butts, thousands of white and tan little nubs, are scattered over the sidewalks, clustered at the base of trees and clogging up gutters. Flattened, soaked and foul, spent smokes have become one of the city's major litter problems over the course of little more than a month. 'The cigarette butts are up 100 percent. They're everywhere,' said Bruce Paul, broom in one hand, garbage can in tow with the other. ... Since Initiative 901 went into effect in December, banning cigars and cigarettes from bars, restaurants, hotels and all other public indoor places in the state, smokers have taken their habit outside -- and are leaving their butts behind."

The Rest of the Story

This is one reason why I think using the "cigarette butts are a problem" argument to support widespread outdoor smoking bans is not a very good idea for tobacco control practitioners.

Apparently, it is the workplace smoking ban that is the cause of a substantial increase in pollution from cigarette butts. Obviously, I believe this is a small price to pay for clean air for workers, but by the reasoning of advocates who use the cigarette butt argument to support the need for outdoor smoking bans, one could just as easily conclude that Initiative 901 is causing a major public health problem.

I think this shows exactly why I am so insistent that we be able to adequately and appropriately justify the public health rationale behind our proposed policies. If we don't do it just right, then it might just come back to bite us in the "butt." (sorry - I couldn't resist)

No comments: