By Lewis Dowell
The Adelaide City Council has approved a complete smoking ban in Rundle Mall, with offenders to be fined $62 for the act.
There have been bans in the past, sure, so it would seem like this was just a natural next step in the state’s progression of anti-smoking campaigns.
However, bans in the past have been in regards to enclosed areas where non-smokers would have no way to avoid the second-hand exhaust of smokers, particularly in places like pubs, clubs and coffee shops where smoking is popular. Bans were put in place for the health of staff members who have no choice but to breathe in second hand smoke during long shifts.
Smoking bans in restaurants and cafes also carry the notion that smoking near foods and kitchens is a health risk. The scheme approved by the City Council just 3 weeks ago, which would give restaurant and café owners a 50% discount on trading permits if they agree to make their outdoor eating areas ‘non-smoking’, seems to have been devised under these lines, whereby smokers and non-smokers should be able to enjoy food and drink smoke free.
This year we have also seen an attack on cigarette packaging, where the government has decided to de-brand cigarettes, turning them all into a haze of pale green. A policy that was met with great contention from tobacco companies who feel they should be able to operate freely in the market place.
Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood says the move to ban smoking in Rundle Mall is about making the Mall competitive against other shopping centres where smoking is banned due to the simple fact that they are in doors.
“Rundle Mall is competing with other shopping centres where smoking is not allowed and we want a level playing field.” Said Mayor Yarwood, this is despite studies that have shown that smoking regulations have had little to no effect on retail trading either positively or negatively.
The other point made by Mayor Yarwood was that the ban would make the Mall a more family friendly place, saying “Families and older people have a right to use the public seating in the Mall and not be exposed to cigarette smoke”.
I am a non-smoker, and in the past have been in favour of the government’s attempts of 1. Making the public aware of the health risks of cigarettes (even though they may be tedious and exaggerated, I am willing to put up with them because of their importance), and 2. Taking away any weapons being carried by the tobacco companies such as advertising, branding and the cute ponies they pulp to make cigarette paper.
And as I am just old enough to remember pubs and clubs before the smoking ban, suffering from smelly clothes, sore eyes and a second hand smoker’s cough, I can tell you that I whole-heartedly support the banning of smoking indoors.
I also submit that banning smoking in popular areas such as Rundle Mall, most likely is an effective step against smoking in society.
(And while I’m on the subject, why is it legal to smoke whilst driving? if mobile phones are deemed unsafe to use in a car then why is it ok to manipulate burning objects whilst travelling at 60km an hour? But that’s a different subject.)
However, there are some factors in this policy to which I find trouble with, and they seem to be becoming more popular in society. That is the idea that 1. Non-smokers have more rights than smokers, and 2. That families and old people have more rights then everybody else.
The active and accurate demonising of tobacco companies by activists and the government, seems to have led to not only the demonising of smokers, but also to the high horsing of non-smokers. As if being a non-smoker is so honourable, that you are granted the right to demand what ever you like from the group who is apparently so incapable of thinking that they would actually smoke.
If someone is smoking in an area where smoking is not allowed, then by all means tell them to stop because they are not allowed to do so. However, if they are smoking in an area where smoking is permitted, you unfortunately have no right whatsoever to tell them to stop. Particularly if that area is as big, open and outdoors as Rundle Mall.
Point number 2. If you are the parents of children, it is not necessarily societies duty to tip toe around your children and hide what you might think is inappropriate behavior, but what actually is quite normal social intercourse between adults. Sure common sense must prevail, and there will be cases where people are no doubt acting inappropriately in front of children, but unfortunately for parents, adults of all ages will swear, smoke, drink and will sometimes behave in ways in which you wouldn’t want your children to behave and that is their right as adults.
Instead of banning smoking in places where it would seem completely appropriate to smoke, and hand out fines for swearing (as experienced by over 800 people in Victoria), maybe we should put a little faith in parents to be able to explain these behaviours to their children. Not forgetting that these children will one day be fully functioning adults capable of making decisions for themselves.
And on the point of old people, I think this is a group that we can be guilty of under-estimating. There seems to be an idea that all elderly people in Rundle Mall are somewhat lost, having wondered away from their nursing home in their sleep the night before, so we must tip toe around them lest a breath of air knock them over. This is instead of what’s probably the more accurate story, that the elderly people you will find in Rundle Mall are actually fully functioning members of society who have managed to navigate the city to find themselves in the CBD, where they are carrying out several tasks before making their way back home. I would also say that they are perfectly capable of telling a group of people to stop smoking, or even move to a different spot if the smoke was really bothering them that much.
Society shouldn’t be tailor made for social conservatives, and believe it or not there is such thing as appropriate levels of public swearing, smoking and drinking. Behaviour in the public should not be regulated on who will take the biggest offence to certain behaviour, and shouldn’t be about hiding appropriate adult behaviour from children.
In the fight against smoking people should always remember that the enemy is tobacco companies, not smokers. Public smoking should be regulated in order to not cause health issues for other members of society, but smokers also shouldn’t be shuttled off out of sight, stricken from the community because they have such an incapacity of thought that they would actually smoke.
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