It will not come as much of a surprise to many tobacco people, but the evidence supporting the need to ban smoking on beaches or in parks is virtually nonexistent, according to Ronald Bayer, a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
Speaking on PBS (Public Broadcasting Service television) about an article in Health Affairs (abstract at: http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/32/7/1291.abstract), of which he was the lead author, Bayer said that he had discovered the evidence was really weak. The evidence of harm to nonsmokers on the beach or in a park from someone smoking was virtually nonexistent.
The evidence that fish and birds were dying because of cigarette butts was virtually nonexistent.
And even the evidence that seeing someone smoking in a park or on a beach would encourage kids to smoke was extremely weak.
At the end of the abstract, the authors ask the question: What, then, accounts for the efforts to impose such bans?
“We conclude that the impetus is the imperative to denormalize smoking as part of a broader public health campaign to reduce tobacco-related illness and death,” the abstract says.
“Although invoking limited evidence may prove effective in the short run, it is hazardous for public health policymakers, for whom public trust is essential.”
A transcript of the PBS broadcast is at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2013/07/the-real-reasons-behind-public-smoking-bans.html.
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