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Expanding no-smoking areas is right thing

Heavy smokers will not be pleased with the efforts to enforce further restrictions on where people can light up, even though there is well-documented evidence that second-hand smoke has taken a heavy toll, with victims in just about every country on Earth.

It is not a question of setting out to offend people who feel they have a right to smoke, but when second-hand smoke inhaled by people near by presents a health threat, the issue becomes something other than just an unpleasant experience.

Before laws were passed prohibiting smoking in the workplace, many people who hadn't purchased a single cigarette were exposed to health dangers on a daily basis. Medical experts globally were finding out through research that smoking, along with second-hand smoke, was having a devastating effect on the state of health in most jurisdictions, and that it was time to take action to halt a trend that years ago was considered a part of lifestyles. Celebrities and movie stars gave it a social status that made it seem that those who refrained from smoking were just out of step with the times.

Here in Bermuda, before any regulations were implemented, the smoking issue was one of those sensitive subjects that people ignored, or spoke of in hushed tones only to those who were fed up with having to inhale smoke all day on the job, knowing that to complain was a no-no. Most of the smokers, and I have known quite a few, were not out to offend anyone because little thought was given to any potential health hazard. In fact, some of the heavy smokers were nice people to work with, and that made it difficult to show disapproval.

The smoking issue has also affected family life, and in many homes throughout the smoking world, adults and children with breathing problems have had their issues worsened by second-hand smoke in the room. Health officials around the world were extremely concerned that the smoking habit was spreading among teenagers, who felt the practice gave them adult status and unaware of the hidden dangers that could change their lives.

There is a perception by some that there is a war against smokers in Bermuda. However, the truth is that there is a significant effort to protect the health of all Bermudians from the dangers of smoking and from having to inhale smoke from others. Any public facility should be free from anyone having to move away from second-hand smoke.

There are people who feel so strong about the issue that they avoid many public events where the likelihood of inhaling second-hand smoke is high, with no regard for dangers to the health of others. These days in most homes, things have changed after so many warnings about health dangers and seldom will anyone light up inside without seeking approval.

Nothing could be more irritating to a non-smoker at a bus stop when someone smokes with no consideration for others. This area of public life must be examined very closely in trying to protect the health of the smoker and the non-smoker.

Most of us know people who feel targeted by the authorities as to where they can or cannot smoke, and that could include family members. No one is out to make enemies over the issue, but when it comes to anything that is a threat to public health, every effort should be made to protect every citizen. That is evidence of moving in the right direction.

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Published August 15, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 15, 2016 at 12:35 am)

Expanding no-smoking areas is right thing

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