Smoking, Ice-Cream and Logical Progressions: Why We Shouldn’t Ban Smoking in Outdoor Public Places

It’s a beautiful warm sunny day, and you have decided to take your children to join a group of friends for a barbecue at the local public park. The wine is flowing (orange juice for the kids), you have managed not to burn the sausages (vegetarian or otherwise), and there is even an ice-cream van parked a conveniently short walk away.

An idyllic scenario for many of us, I’m sure you will agree; one might even go so far as to suggest that this is exactly the sort of thing that public parks are there for; they represent a carefree environment in which we can enjoy the sunshine and engage in recreational communal activities with others.

Here are some things that I am not particularly worried about when I occasionally find myself in something approximating this happy situation. First, I do not worry that the smoke that the barbecue creates contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that might pose a health risk. Second, I do not worry that my enjoying a glass of wine normalizes the consumption of alcohol to innocent children who happen to catch a glimpse of me drinking, and that this might thereby influence them into doing something similar in the future. Finally, I do not worry that the lurking ice-cream van is a malevolent entity normalizing the consumption of sugary foods and thereby contributing to the current obesity epidemic.

With this vignette in mind, consider Lord Ara Darzi and Dr Oliver Keown’s recent letter to the British Medical Journal  (reported here and here) arguing in favour of cities in the UK following the example of New York City in extending anti-smoking legislation to encompass a ban on smoking in public parks and squares.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.