Notably, the three national organizations most closely associated with the public campaign against smokingthe American Lung Association, American Heart Association, and American Cancer Societywere "indifferent" or "skeptical" to initiatives of the state and local activists. The organizations' leadership thought other policies offered more promising ways to reduce smoking such as by raising cigarette taxes, imposing more severe restrictions on indoor smoking, and controlling tobacco marketing.
In New York City, advocates for a smoke-free city drew on a World Health Organization publication that said implementing 100% smoke-free environments is the only effective way to protect the population from exposure to smoking's harmful effects. But as Dr. Bayer notes, the health risk of exposure is far less certain than some supporters claimed.
In the argument for smoking bans in parks and on beaches, the most striking aspect, according to Dr. Bayer, is the assertion that just the act of smoking in public poses a threat to the well-being of children and adolescents because of the message it conveys. Protecting children has been an uncontested premise of public health, and the evidence clearly supports the claim that children model the behavior of a parent or other close adult.
"Banning smoking in public settings may have seemed beyond the pale 25 years ago, but with changes in the political context and in social norms, the public has increasingly come to consider them as interventions designed to serve the common good. However, local coalitions pressing for smoking bans need to be strong enough to overcome the opposition of the tobacco and hospitality industries and of people who invoke threats of Big Brother," writes Dr. Bayer.
While the rules for bans on smoking in public are gaining in popularity and the evidence may help to reduce tobacco-related illness and death in the short term, Dr. Bayer and co-a
|Contact: Stephanie Berger|
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health