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Should smoking be banned altogether?

A row is looming over whether we should be allowed to smoke outside in public places such as parks.

In 2007 the UK smoking ban was introduced but this only covers indoor public places. Now former Labour Health Minister Lord Darzi and Dr Oliver Keown of Imperial College in London are calling for the ban to be extended to include parks and squares. They say it would help encourage people to make healthier lifestyle choices.

However, there are also cries against the idea saying it is over paternalistic and restrictive against people’s individual choices.

Simon Clark, a director smokers’ organisation Forest says that tobacco is a legal product and smokers pay £10 billion a year in tobacco taxation alone.

“As long as they are considerate to those around them, they must be allowed to light up outside without being harassed or made to feel uncomfortable,” he said. “We must be careful we don’t create a world only puritans can inhabit.”

The problem of course is that tobacco has now been conclusively proven to cause real health problems. It is not only the dried tobacco leaves that can be dangerous, ingredients are also added for flavour and to make smoking more pleasant.

This means that cigarettes, cigars and pipe tobacco produce a complex mixture of chemicals in their smoke. In fact, rough estimates say that there are more than 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke and 70 of these are known to cause cancer. Some of these substances also can cause heart and lung disease and many of them are deadly. Tobacco smoke includes chemicals such as cyanide, benzene, formaldehyde and acetylene. It also contains tar and the poison gases carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide.

Of course we all hear stories of people who have smoked nonstop and are still fit and well in their 90s. But without doubt evidence is now clear that smoking does make us susceptible to a number of life threatening problems; half of all smokers die from smoking related diseases.

And of course it is not just smokers that are affected. When someone smokes a cigarette, the smoke that comes from the tobacco can stay in the air for up to two and a half hours, even with a window open. You don’t have to be able to smell the smoke for it to be there.

According to Cancer Research this can also cause cancer. Passive smoking, as this is called, can increase a non-smoker’s risk of cancers of the larynx (voice box) and pharynx (upper throat) and cause other problems too including heart disease, stroke and breathing problems. They say it is estimated that second-hand smoke kills over 12,000 people in the UK each year from lung cancer, heart disease, stroke and the lung disease COPD.

So how far should the ban go? When we were young smoking was still very popular indeed; people smoked everywhere and you never entered a pub or restaurant that didn’t have numerous ash trays being available. Now it is banned in these areas and on public transport and planes. Should smoking be banned in public places like parks? Should it be banned altogether? If you have any views, let us know at comments@laterlife.com

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