In a letter published in the British Medical Journal last week (26 February), Professor Lord Ara Darzi argues that current anti-smoking legislation should be extended to open spaces “to celebrate the great beacon of healthy living” which the spaces were designed for.
The former minister and UK ambassador for Health and Life Sciences said that a ban in parks and squares would support healthier decision making among the public and would help to tackle the estimated £2.7bn a year burden on the NHS in healthcare expenditure associated with smoking.
Professor Lord Darzi points to pilot schemes in cities around the world, such as New York, Honk Kong and Toronto, which have dented the smoking habits of their denizens.
But critics have argued that such action goes too far and may be using a public health message to mask civil issues.
Writing in the same edition of the journal, Professor Simon Chapman, of the University of Sydney in Australia, argued that: “Coercing people to stop smoking in settings where it poses negligible risk to others is openly paternalistic.”
Professor Chapman suggested that such legislation uses the public health banner to pass bans needed to tackle the significant issue of litter associated with smoking – packaging and cigarette butts. He argued that local governments “should be up front about the litter problem.”
Highlighting the falling rates of smokers in Australia “achieved without the unethical coercion of smokers,” he added: “We also hope that smokers will quit, particularly those we love or care for. But when they don’t, we should not cross a very sacrosanct line by forcing them, if they are adults, not to smoke.”
The full article is available online.