Monday, 14 September 2015

Take it outside?

The Dom's editorial today rails against the existence of outdoor smoking areas at bars.
Now the ministry is proposing new rules requiring an outdoor smoking area to be 35 per cent open. Anything that can be closed, including doors, plastic sheets and even an umbrella, would not count as open space. If it can be closed, it's fair to suppose that it will be. That, after all, will provide the noxious fug that the bars and their smoking clients want.
But perhaps there is a better way to deal with this. Rather than engaging in a byzantine debate about what is an open space, perhaps the law should just ban smoking in all outdoor areas in and around bars and restaurants. This is what the local and regional councils suggested to the government in July, and a good case can be made. Partial bans, after all, always lead to invidious arguments. Even this newspaper has wondered about the wisdom of banning outdoor smoking areas on the windswept Wellington waterfront.
But a blanket ban would avoid all these micro-controversies. And although there might be an element of rough justice here, the greater good arguably trumps the particular case. Perhaps the best approach might be to ban smoking within, say,  three metres of any bar or restaurant, and leave it at that. We have had enough sophistry from the tobacco lobby.
After all, the fundamental principles behind all anti-smoking laws are clear and they should not be sabotaged by those with a commercial interest in backing Big Tobacco. The first principle is that smokers have the right to smoke. The second principle is that they do not have the right to inflict toxic fumes on others. The danger of second-hand smoke is abundantly clear. And so is the distress caused by blowing your smoke in someone else's face.
I'm afraid I don't get the underlying model.

If the outdoor smoking area is sufficiently closed in that there's a 'fug', why would any non-smoker head out there to suffer the fumes? No non-smoker would be there to suffer the distress caused by having smoke blown in the face. If they're sufficiently ventilated that doesn't happen, what's the problem that needs solving?

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