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By Madeleine Gray on May 2, 2017 in News

Smoking hot?

The banning of smoking in public places poses an interesting philosophical conundrum. At what point does a government or ruling body get to legislate on what individuals can do with their own bodies? Does the health risk posed to members of the public automatically negate the smokers’ right to smoke?

Occasionally analogies are drawn with other contentious issues that argue for a person’s right to ‘harm’ their own body if they so choose – in particular, euthanasia. What separates euthanasia from public smoking, though, is that euthanasia does not hurt innocent bystanders.

In recent years, research into the effects of passive smoking has brought to light the incredibly detrimental health consequences faced by those who inhale second-hand smoke.

“Second-hand smoke is a cause of cancer, and there is no safe level of exposure,” Scott Walsberger, Lead Prevention and Tobacco Control Manager at Cancer Council NSW, explained to The Beast.

“In adulthood, exposure to second-hand smoke increases a person’s risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and other lung conditions.

“For example, six per cent of lung cancer cases in men and women have been attributed to living with a partner who smokes.

“For children, second-hand exposure is even more dangerous, leading to health problems such as bronchitis, pneumonia and asthma.”

It is for the above reasons that Waverley Council has taken the initiative to make both sides of Hall Street between Campbell Parade and Glenayr Avenue in Bondi smoke-free between 7am-9pm daily.

“This new smoke-free area follows on from the successful trial of smoke-free Oxford Street Mall, which started in December 2015 and was found to significantly reduce smoking rates in the mall,” Waverley Mayor Sally Betts said.

“A smoke-free environment is the only way to fully protect non-smokers from the dangers of second- hand smoke.”

To ensure that smokers are not caught unawares, Council set up an information stall on the corner of Hall Street and Campbell Parade on March 15 to raise awareness about the program and field enquiries from members of the public and businesses. Signage was also rolled out throughout March.

Mr. Walsberger was quick to add that banning smoking in public places is for everyone’s benefit, and crucially, contributes to the denormalisation of smoking in our society.

“Hall Street is a public place that attracts crowds of people, including children and families,” he said.

“Eliminating tobacco smoke can therefore play an important role in protecting the community from exposure to secondhand smoke.

“A smoke-free Hall Street is also likely to result in reduced litter, and will further denormalise smoking in our community, which helps to prevent the uptake of smoking among young people.”

Smokers, however, were quick to point out inconsistencies in national policies regarding air pollution and public health.

“If you’re banning smoking because of air quality, you’ve got to put your money where your mouth is and agree to a carbon tax,” Bondi resident and smoker Anne Williams said.

“You can’t just pick and choose, dependent on the public mood.”