It's time for restaurants to stop shaming smokers

Comment: Isn’t everyone entitled to a nice night out?
It's time for restaurants to stop shaming smokers
By Lubna Hamdan
Sun 21 May 2017 08:52 AM

Everyone has taken the liberty to become the moral police when it comes to smokers. Smokers need to be punished, they say, for harming themselves and potentially harming those around them via second hand smoking.

Sitting in the smoking area at a lounge in Dubai Marina, I couldn’t help thinking that this punishment has gone a little too far.

Despite the lounge stretching across a full floor, its designated smoking area is rather pathetic. While it is ridiculously small for such a large lounge, the worst part is it has horrible ventilation — one of the tactics used to make the smoking experience as difficult and as lousy as possible — but which also increases health risks due to high levels of smoke trapped in a constricted area.

Health fanatics will say the tactic is really to benefit smokers; to help them quit smoking and ultimately save them from their harmful selves while simultaneously making the world a better and healthier place for everyone.

While they claim smokers are given the freedom to smoke in designated areas, they fail to recognise their aggressive stance: if you smoke, you’re going to be punished, because smoking is bad for you.

But smoking is undeniably bad for you. Smokers are not unaware of this.

The question here is — so what?

I can think of a long list of things that are just as bad. Every day, people make personal decisions that marginally increase their risks of dying. It’s a trade-off, put simply. If punishment is how this is being dealt with, then we might as well punish drivers. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 50 million people are injured in traffic accidents around the world, while 1.2 million die as a result of traffic crashes, meaning one person is killed every 25 seconds while driving.

Some might say it is absurd to compare smoking to driving, despite driving also marginally increasing our risk of dying — just like skydiving or riding motorbikes or eating fatty food. Yet who are we to tell someone to drive or not to drive? To eat fatty foods or not to eat fatty foods?

And why are smokers still being judged and punished for making a personal choice?

Anti-smoking enthusiasts will also argue that personal freedom ends when it violates another’s, but regulations have already been set in place (and more continue to be set) to protect non-smokers, who also have the personal choice of going to a non-smoking restaurant or sitting far from the designated smoking area.

So do we have to continue to make smokers’ lives more difficult even on a night out?

There is enough room in this world for smokers and non-smokers to co-exist without one side squeezing the other into a corner based on its moral compass or its health choices. Perhaps it is time we recognise that and see that smokers are at least entitled to, dare we say, proper ventilation.

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