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09.05.2012 Opinion

THERE IS NO CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO SMOKE: DESIGNATED SMOKING AREAS WILL NOT PROTECT THE PUBLIC”

By Labram Musah
THERE IS NO CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO SMOKE: DESIGNATED SMOKING AREAS WILL NOT PROTECT THE PUBLIC”
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The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the International Convention on Economic and Social Rights and other human rights treaties, and the constitutions of many countries, governments have the responsibility to protect their citizens' right to the highest standard of health, to life, and to a safe work environment. There is no constitutional right to smoke. Secondhand smoke exposure is a known cause of death and disease, and allowing exposure to secondhand smoke infringes on non-smokers' right to health. Public health must take priority. Health is a fundamental human right.

The right of a person to breathe clean air takes precedence over any possible right of smokers to pollute the air.

Ventilation systems and designated smoking rooms do not provide effective protection to the public and workers from the deadly effects of secondhand smoke.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) concluded, “the only means of effectively eliminating health risk associated with indoor exposure is to ban smoking activity.” ASHRAE found that no engineering approaches, including current and advanced dilution ventilation and air cleaning technologies, have been demonstrated to control health risks from environmental tobacco smoke exposure in spaces where smoking occurs.

Tobacco industry knew that air filtration and ventilation systems were ineffective yet still promoted the technology as a viable option to smoking restrictions. According to their documents, their interest in ventilation systems was primarily “to negate the need for indoor smoking bans around the world.”

There is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure. Exposure to secondhand smoke causes death, disease. Every year, secondhand smoke causes over 600,000 premature deaths.

Adults exposed to secondhand smoke in the workplace are at greater risk for developing tobacco-related health problems than adults who work in smoke-free environments. Women and children are disproportionately harmed by secondhand smoke from male smokers. Thus, smoke-free laws save lives, and improve public health.

Article 8 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control requires Parties to adopt smoke-free laws to protect citizens from exposure to tobacco smoke in workplaces, public transport and other indoor public places. Guidelines adopted by the treaty's governing body make it clear that only 100 percent smoke-free laws meet the treaty requirements.

Since 2007, the United Kingdom has been covered by comprehensive smoke-free legislation. As a result, all indoor public places and workplaces are smoke-free.

“The evidence is clear, there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke. I urge all countries that have not yet done so to take this immediate and important step to protect the health of all by passing laws requiring all indoor workplaces and public places to be 100% smoke-free." Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization.

While we commend Parliament Health Committee, the recommendation made by the committee contradicts the objective of Tobacco Control Measures of the Public Health Bill and the very foundation of the FCTC. We therefore urge parliament to support smokers to quit smoking as stated in the Public Health Bill rather than designating areas for them to smoke and die. Parliament must protect its integrity against tobacco industry interferences by continuing to protect public health over tobacco profit”.

Issah Ali; Executive Director, Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) and Coalition on the Tobacco Control Bill.

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