Ban smoking in public places
Smoking kills. The Bahamas needs to ban smoking inside public places to preserve the health of those who do not smoke.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says secondhand smoke exposure causes an estimated 3,400 lung cancer deaths annually among adult non-smokers in the US. The CDC also notes that secondhand smoke exposure causes an estimated 46,000 heart disease deaths annually among adult non-smokers in the US.
We live in a free society. Adults who choose to smoke, knowing the dangers of the practice, are free to face the consequences of their actions. Banning smoking inside enclosed restaurants, casinos, enclosed nightclubs and other public places will help save the lives of the employees who work there and those who regularly visit.
Many jurisdictions in developed countries have moved to ban smoking inside public places. On Wednesday the New York City Council went further and voted to ban smoking in 1,700 city parks and along 14 miles of city beaches.
Here in The Bahamas some are afraid of a smoking ban especially those in the tourism sector. They argue that such a restriction would make The Bahamas less competitive, as people like to smoke in casinos and in restaurants.
Banning smoking in these places may actually bring in more customers such as those who do not want to socialize in smoky places.
But more importantly the ban would save lives. It would especially save the lives of workers. Casino workers and restaurant employees are especially vulnerable to secondhand smoke.
A ban on smoking in public places would also help reduce health care costs. Fewer people would need to be treated for the lung maladies that result from breathing in the smoke exhaled by others.
Many of our visitors come from developed countries where indoor smoking bans already exist. The practice of going outside to smoke is becoming more and more the norm. The Bahamas would only be conforming to the emerging international standard.
Hotels could have designated smoking areas near exits for those who want to smoke. Restaurants could expand, if the space exists, to outdoor seating for smokers. The Bahamas is warm throughout the year. Smokers should have no problem smoking outside.
Several years ago, the Ministry of Health spoke publicly about its consultations with stakeholders regarding an indoor smoking ban. There has been little public discussion of the issue for a while. The government should make the move. Non-smokers should be protected.
Those addicted to smoking should seek medical help. New treatments continue to become available for smokers. Nicotine addiction is one of the hardest addictions to break.