What Really Happens When You Ban Smoking

By Tobin, Hugh | Review - Institute of Public Affairs, October 2006 | Go to article overview

What Really Happens When You Ban Smoking


Tobin, Hugh, Review - Institute of Public Affairs


Smoking bans seem to have strong public support and are being rolled out all over the world. In Australia, graphic warnings have been introduced on cigarette packaging, and many States have banned smoking on public transport and at tram, bus and train shelters. Already, in Victoria, more than 330 on-the-spot fines have been issued to commuters since the bans came into effect on 1 March 2006. On 31 July this year, smoking was made illegal in Western Australian pubs and clubs. Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania will ban smoking in clubs and bars in 2007 and bans have applied in NSW for over 1 2 months.

But policy-makers need to consider the consequences of this unprecedented government intervention being imposed on our lives. Smoking is, after all, legal.

It is questionable whether smoking bans inside venues will even have their intended effect. A paper published by the Australian National University's Centre for Economic Policy Research this year found that while taxes on cigarettes had a significant impact on reducing passive smoking, banning smoking in public places had, on average, no effect at all. Instead, bans can adversely increase people's exposure by displacing smokers to private places where they contaminate non-smokers, primarily children. It seems perverse to be shifting smoking back into the home, particularly considering that 94 per cent of the $5 billion spent on health care costs relating to passive smoking were spent on children.

Bans on popular activities like smoking always have unintended effects -it is hard to stop individuals from doing the things they enjoy, legal or illegal. One of the more unexpected problems from the smoking bans that has already been noticed in some venues is problems with sweat and other odours. According to Scotland's Sunday Mail, nightclub owners are pumping scented smoke onto dance-floors to deodorise sweat and flatulence smells which were formerly masked by cigarette smoke. From personal experience in Sydney nightclubs, where bans are already in place, it seems that Australian clubs are having a similar problem, and clubs in Melbourne are spending money preparing their venues for this consequence. …

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What Really Happens When You Ban Smoking
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