Ruth Nygard


Within the last decade British Colombia has banned tobacco smoking in all public spaces and workplaces. The next frontier the antismoking advocates wish to conquer is the great outdoors, such as all parks and beaches across the entire province of B.C. Although there is much to be thankful for in the elimination of secondhand smoke, there are issues in the antismoking campaign that need to be addressed, and this is of concern to everyone, not just the smoking public, because human rights are involved. To move smoking bans to wide open venues is going too far, and secondhand smoke studies are showing that such bans are not necessary; therefore intelligence is required to recognize and act according to the facts the studies provide. The ethics and goals of the antismoking advocates are becoming questionable, because imposing smoking bans where it is not necessary reveals more of a fanatical battle toward suppression and control over a group of people, than a rational action to protect the rights of everyone to breath fresh air.  The use of compassion is now necessary to ensure no needless suffering occurs in care home facilities, while enforcing the smoking bans, since many elderly smoking residents, who have smoked for decades, are being forced out into harsh cold conditions. Working towards a cleaner environment needs to be based on diplomatic, rationality, and accurate evidence, not a power takeover from one group’s opinions against another group’s rights.   

      Several studies performed on air quality around secondhand smoke in wide open outdoor venues have not supported any justification towards imposing bans on smoking in outdoor open spaces; however that fact is not stopping the antismoking activists from getting their own way and imposing unnecessary bans. According to the first in-depth study done concerning outdoor air quality of secondhand smoke, by Stanford researchers, Wayne Ott and Neil Klepeis, people are not affected by second hand smoke unless they are closer than six feet.

Text Box: Wayne Ott and Neil Klepeis were members of a team of Stanford researchers who conducted the first in-depth study on how smoking affects air quality at sidewalk cafés, park benches and other outdoor locations.  ‘Unlike indoor tobacco smoke, which can persist for hours, the researchers found that outdoor smoke disappears rapidly when a cigarette is extinguished. "Our data also show that if you move about six feet away from an outdoor smoker, your exposure levels are much lower," Klepeis said. In the study, the researchers used portable electronic monitors to make precise measurements of toxic airborne particles emitted from cigarettes at 10 sites near the Stanford campus. "We wanted to quantify the potential level of exposure to outdoor tobacco smoke that could occur in everyday settings," Klepeis said’ (Shwartz 2007).


To further stress this point that total bans on smoking in venues such as parks are not warranted, other studies have come up with the same conclusion.

‘If you want to argue for park wide smoking bans based on asthma or on an analogy to noise pollution, go ahead and make that case. But let’s not cloud that debate by invoking the general harm of secondhand smoke. Studies of secondhand smoke have indeed moved outdoors. Their findings support restrictions on lighting up within a few feet of other people. But they don’t warrant more than that’ (O'Callaghan 2009).


The antismoking advocates would do well in listening to the facts that studies on secondhand smoke have revealed, and act accordingly before imposing farther bans on smoking outdoors. One of the antismoking advocates’ strongest supporters, Dr. Michael Siegel, also feels the ban on smoking in parks and beaches has gone too far, and that the anti-smoking advocates are in danger of losing credibility.

      ‘Dr. Michael Siegel has been an anti-smoking advocate for 25 years, even testifying as an expert witness in a U.S. lawsuit that slapped the tobacco industry with a $145-billion verdict. He has stood before Congress and fought for smoking bans in restaurants, bars and casinos, and he supports smoke-free playgrounds because they are designed specifically for children.

       Today though, Dr. Siegel is breaking ranks with his own movement because he fears it has gone too far, jeopardizing itself from within by crusading for bans in even the largest of outdoor public places such as parks and beaches.

       By treading into the realm of Times Square or Stanley Park, as New York and Vancouver have done, the movement risks losing the science-based argument it has long won — because, Dr. Siegel said, there is no evidence that fleeting second-hand exposure in an open space is significantly harmful.

“Once we leave the firm ground of science, we could be viewed as zealots — fanatics trying to eliminate smoking anywhere and everywhere,” said Dr. Siegel, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health’ (Carlson).



 Regardless of what the studies have revealed, or Dr. Siegel’s warning, Kathryn Seely, the Cancer Society spokesperson o B.C. is pushing to impose a provincial wide ban on outdoor smoking, ‘We need regulations to ban smoking on all outdoor patios of bars and restaurants, as well as on beaches, and in parks and playgrounds’ (Seely). Smoking bans in bars, restaurants, and children’s playgrounds are reasonable, but park wide bans are not justified according to the studies. There is no argument that smoking is unhealthy and everyone’s rights to breath fresh air needs protection, however the facts of danger concerning outdoor smoking, and human rights have to be put into prospective. With the evidence provided from the studies that outdoor secondhand smoke will not affect air quality beyond six feet; rational, intelligent decisions must be implemented instead of banning smoking just because of one group’s opinion.

      Ethics are needed to lead communities into a balanced comprehensive solution that protects not only the nonsmokers’ rights, but the smokers’ right to smoke as well.  In light of the studies done regarding the distance in which secondhand smoke emissions become nonthreatening, it would not be outlandish for the public to expect designated places where smokers can light up, which are adequately distanced away from nonsmokers and any main thruways. Erecting designated smoking areas would make more sense, than the forceful crackdown approach. There are rights for all in practice in many institutions, although they do have smoking bans in place.

‘The goal of The Evergreen State College smoking policy is to meet the needs of smokers while respecting the right to avoid second hand smoke by non-smokers. While smoking is not allowed inside campus buildings, the college permits smoking in outdoor designated areas located within the core area of the campus’ (Evergreen state College).


Nonsmokers’ rights are being met in B.C.; and although smoking is an unhealthy habit, smokers are also tax-paying citizens of the free world, therefore have the right to smoke their legal cigarettes, as long as they do not infringe on others rights. The antismoking advocates need to come to grips with facts, and become familiar with equality, and that human right is for everyone.

       The compassion toward the elderly who smoke is questionable when witnessing them being wheeled off the care facilities grounds into the unprotected harsh winter conditions to have a cigarette.

‘Some elderly residents of a Vancouver retirement home say a smoking ban imposed on the facility by Vancouver Coastal Health is more dangerous to them than any cigarette smoke.

Suzanne Del Buey and her husband Francisco moved into Haro Park Centre nine years ago in large part because it had a smoking room. But Vancouver Coastal Health, which provides funding to the home, introduced a smoke-free premises policy in 2008 but gave residential and palliative care facilities more time to implement the ban. Since Aug. 7, Haro Park residents must walk to a street-side bench for a smoke.

"It's a very dark corner, it's very dangerous at night and we're a target for unbalanced people," said Suzanne Del Buey, who accompanies her 91-year-old husband outside when he smokes.

Francisco's doctor also wrote a letter to the home stating that being outside at night and in poor weather conditions is actually more detrimental to his health than smoking - which can be a helpful coping mechanism’ (Slivinski, August 23, 2012).


Subjecting the elderly to the harsh elements, because antismoking advocates want their own way is abominable. On one hand the authorities say it is every person’s responsibility to report elderly abuse; but on the other hand their smoking bans are forcing the elderly outside often into harsh wintery, or dangerous conditions, but the care providers’ hands are tied. Care home facilities should have the right; and be required to have a safe, easy to access place in or on the premises of their facilities for smoking residents, which provides protection against the weather elements.  The argument that the elderly are responsible for their circumstances is not an adequate excuse for any harsh treatment, and forcing them to quit smoking at their age is cruel. The elderly deserve to spend their last days in peace, and it is up to everyone to exercise compassion in this circumstance, and provide them with an appropriate place to smoke that does not disturb the nonsmoking residents or staff.    

       The bans on outdoor smoking in public parks is taking the smoking issue to a new level. By depriving smokers of any place to smoke, the antismoking advocates are proving to not only be interested in banning smoking to protect the rights, and health of the public; but it is turning into one group of people controlling, and discriminating against, another group of people. In order to move forward in a responsible fashion towards a nondiscriminatory and better society, three principles have to be utilized: intelligence, ethics, and compassion. Intelligence is needed to act according to the facts that studies provide concerning secondhand smoke. Strong ethics of equality are required to lead communities into a balanced comprehensive solution that protects everyone’s rights. Compassion must be implemented to ensure no needless suffering occurs while engaging in this campaign to make the world a pollution free environment.  To lead citizens into an effective healthy society, diplomacy has to prevail in order to bring desirable results; whereas force will bring unnecessary rebellion. Any society that indorses force to take away the rights of others is not an honorable society.












Shwartz, Mark, “Stanford News.” The Science Behind Moving Smoking Bans Outside. May 2, 2007, <>


O'Callaghan, Tiffany. “Times Health and Family.” The Science Behind Moving Smoking Bans Outside. Nov. 19,2009 <>


Carlson, Kathryn Blaze. “National Post.” No smoking outdoors: Have activists gone too far? February 18, 2012 <>


Seely, Kathryn. “Canadian Cancer Society, British Columbia and Yukon.” Canadian Cancer Society calls on BC Government to make patios, parks and playgrounds smoke-free. January 20, 2013

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“Evergreen State College, Olympia Washington.” Smoker's Information Center. 2013



Slivinski, Ada.  “24 hrs. Vancouver.” Seniors fuming over indoor smoking ban. August 23, 2012 <>