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Denormalizing smoking: Making the case for banning cigarettes in parks and on beaches
Date:7/8/2013

Many state and local governments have banned smoking in parks and on beaches on the basis that passive smoke is a risk for non-smokers, cigarette butts pollute the environment, and seeing people smoke poses a long-term risk to children. In the paper "Banning Smoking In Parks and on Beaches: Science, Policy, and the Politics of Denormalization," published in the July issue of the journal Health Affairs, researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health analyzed the evidence for these claims and found them to be far from definitive and, in some cases, weak. There is however a case for such bans --it rests on the duty of government acting in the name of public health to restrict smoking in order to protect smokers themselves. By banning smoking in public settings the crucial task of denormalizing which contributes to lowering smoking rates is fostered in important ways.

A national database maintained by the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation shows that from January 1993 to June 2011, U.S. smoking bans were put in effect in 843 parks and on 150 beaches. The popularity of imposing bans on smoking in public places was further revealed in the results of a 2011 Gallop poll, which showed that 59% of respondents supported bans, a marked shift from 2008, when only 40% had favored such laws. Ronald Bayer, PhD, Mailman School professor of Sociomedical Sciences and senior author of the Health Affairs paper says this change in attitudes was also a sign that bans might be self-enforcing, requiring little intervention by authorities.

Leading the nation in imposing the bans were California, where 155 parks and 46 beaches no longer allowed smoking, followed by Minnesota and New Jersey, although bans in many states covered only sections of the beach. A city or county-level governing body enacted a majority of the laws (90%). Forty-one percent or 352 of the municipalities with park bans had "tot lot bans"prohibitions on smokin
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Contact: Stephanie Berger
sb2247@columbia.edu
212-305-4372
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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