Letter: Non-smoking not needed

I know that in recent years adopting a non-smoking policy indoors has become a very popular idea. Every time it is presented, the arguments for such an ordinance seem very compelling. Typically in articles addressing this issue, the risk of second hand smoke to non-smokers is described as horrific. However, it is usually supported by anecdotal or evidence from inference. There should be, on occasion, an actual look at the scientific evidence. A paper published in Mutation Research in November of last year (“Genotoxicity of environmental tobacco smoke: a review,” Kirsti Husgafvel-Pursiainen) reviews the research behind the assumptions. As it turns out, non-smokers exposed to second hand smoke do, in some studies, show some of the biological evidence of smoking that smokers do. Although the vast majority of studies on the subject conclude that the effect of second hand smoke on non-smokers is only a tiny fraction of that experienced by smokers, it is a statistically significant amount and I can see how some extremely health-conscious individuals could be concerned.

However, after doing this research, I still had to conclude that it is all irrelevant. There are countless studies out there that conclude that alcohol is dangerous, however the consumption of it is not in question. The issue here is that of personal freedom and individual choice. No, I am not talking about a smoker’s freedom to smoke, or a non-smoker’s freedom to not have to breath in second-hand smoke. All of this, as far as I am concerned, has no bearing on the argument. It seems to me that it is a ridiculous infringement on the rights of a business owner to tell him or her what can and can’t be done within the walls of the establishment. This is not the job of the government.

Regardless of your views on smoking, we still live in a capitalist society. If you feel more bars should have non-smoking policies, then don’t go out to them. Urge bar owners to try out non-smoking nights, speak to the owners of the businesses yourself. Do not attempt to mandate a business owner to run their bar or restaurant a particular way simply because it suits you. Remember, it is possible that the owner is a smoker, the employees are smokers and a lot of the regular costumers are smokers. These owners might not want your business if it means costing them, their employees and their friends the comfort of being able to smoke indoors on winter days.

Erik Martin

Graduate Student