Many outside public spaces should be smokefree to help stop children becoming smokers, according to researchers in an article published on bmj.com today (12 December 2008).
George Thomson and colleagues argue that outdoor bans in parks, car parks, beaches, and streets will reduce smoking being modelled to children as normal behaviour and thus cut the uptake of smoking.
The need for outdoor smoking restrictions is increasingly recognised, they write. For example, California has banned smoking within 25ft of outdoor playgrounds, while several reports from around the world show majority support for restricting or banning smoking in outdoor areas where there are children.
The authors acknowledge that we may not yet be certain that outdoor smokefree areas reduce smoking uptake. However, they believe that society has an ethical duty to minimise the risk of children becoming nicotine dependent smokers.
“Children need smokefree outdoor places now, to help normalise a smokefree society”, they conclude.
However, Professor Simon Chapman, from the University of Sydney, argues that outdoor bans infringe personal freedom and that evidence for extending bans to outdoor settings is flimsy.
He points out that there are few differences between the chemistry of tobacco smoke and that generated by campfires or barbecues. Zero tolerance of tobacco smoke in outdoor public settings is “nakedly paternalistic”, he writes.