Stopping cigarette smoking has become a big problem for all governments. In democratic countries, the economic strength of the tobacco industry is so great that measures taken by governments to protect the rights of nonsmokers cannot be applied effectively.
In some undemocratic countries, on the other hand, governments cannot be trusted and they lack the motivation to deal with the problem. And under any political system, social conditioning and chemical habituation make banning tobacco a formidable task and one that would take a long time.
Yet, current information campaigns are failing as worldwide use increases faster than the population. Totally banning cigarette smoking so far has been unsuccessful in all countries. An alternative approach includes either the prohibition of smoking in the workplace and public buildings or the strict limitation of smoking to specified areas.
This movement may be the greatest success of the information campaign against tobacco. Its leaders insist that despite the continued sale, advertising, and use of tobacco, nonsmokers have every right not to be exposed to the carcinogens, carbon monoxide, and irritants in tobacco smoke. Such a campaign can have three important effects.
First, by banning the use of tobacco from places where nonsmokers would be exposed, thousands of lives may be saved. Second, forcing smokers to give up their habit while in the presence of nonsmokers will provide them with an added force to quit.
If smokers must get through working days without smoking, then they are more likely to be able to quit completely. And third, by stigmatizing tobacco use as dangerous and antisocial, the campaign for nonsmokers’ rights can accomplish a goal of all anti-smoking information campaigns: to make smoking socially unattractive. Interestingly, nonsmokers have important supporters in the workplace: their employers.
Companies, at least in the United States, are rapidly realizing that most of their employees do not smoke and do not like to breathe the smoke of others, and that smokers cost employers money. Surveys indicate that inefficiency and ill-health attributable to smoking waste about 7% of a smoker’s working time. Smokers also add to insurance and cleanup costs, and lower the morale of nonsmoking employees.