Smoke Signals

5 January, 2009

I’ll admit that I wasn’t the world’s greatest supporter of the smoking ban in public places when it was introduced by the government at the start of July 2007. I supported the main thrust of the legislation but I thought there should have been an exemption for pubs and clubs that didn’t serve food. Enforcement could have been more  of an issue than it has been. Would it really have been worth the bother of enforcement to people who were quite happy to trash their livers? Why not their lungs as well?

Well the latest research from the USA is showing significant public health benefits to a smoking ban. So I may have been somewhat wrong. In fact a drop of 41% in 3 years is startling and is making me think about questions of sample size but with 8 earlier studies showing a reduction in heart attacks linked to the introduction of a smoking ban and having seen the effects of a heart attack on my own father I think the activists for public health have been on the right side of the argument.

This is not just relevant to a small part of Colorado or indeed the UK but globally. The next decades will see a greater importance placed on tackling lifestyle diseases. As globalisation enables the newly industrialised countries to live the same lifestyles as the west they will also share in our lifestyle led diseases and their politics will have to reflect the debate between greater public health or greater private rights not just on smoking but also diet and exercise. Still the pressure will be on policy makers to find win win situations. One of the things I love about Dutch and Danish cycling culture is not only is it incredibly good for you but people do it of their own volition rather than be coerced into by government. Anyway that’s for another post.

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