The fight to eliminate smoking has moved from indoors to outdoors.
ATLANTA – Smoking has been increasingly marginalized these days, from higher cigarette taxes to indoor smoking bans. Now more outside venues are banning cigarettes, the Associated Press/USA Today reports. Prohibitions against smoking outside have increased close to twofold since 2008. Close to 2,600 public beaches, city parks, college campuses and other outside places have banned smoking.
However, some health experts say the bans are not based on evidence that tobacco smoke in an outdoor setting can cause harm to others. Many studies point to a link between indoor secondhand smoke inhalation and health problems, and some health officials say all that research means that breathing smoke outside can have the same impact.
“There’s no risk-free level of secondhand smoke,” said Brian King, an expert on secondhand smoke with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But because it’s outdoors, it’s harder to figure out the harmful effects, if any, of cigarette smoke. Health experts have been concentrating their efforts on sidewalk cafes, feeling that they have a better chance of regulating those areas over public beaches or municipal parks.
Australian researcher Simon Chapman, who has done extensive research into smoking, said that he opposes smoking bans for outdoor venues. “Next you might say ‘Let’s not just stop there. Let’s not have people smoke anywhere they might be seen,’” he said.
Already, dozens of New Jersey towns and cities have approved no smoking ordinances for public outdoor places.