There has been much debate and news coverage on the public health topic of protecting the health of all Hoosiers from the dangers of secondhand smoke. When authoring a comprehensive bill to establish a smoke-free indoor air policy in Indiana that protects all Hoosiers, one must look at certain restrictions and guidelines related to public safety. What’s wrong with that?
There are policies that mandate the water temperature used to wash dishes in restaurants, but no one says the government is banning the practice of cleaning dishes in cool water. It’s a policy, not a ban. If anyone washes dishes with cool water at home, it is their prerogative, but if those dishes will be used in public, it’s unsafe; therefore the health department sets certain restrictions and guidelines. It’s not a ban, it’s a policy. There is a difference; it’s not simply semantics.
Webster defines the two words as follows:
Policy: A basic principle or guidelines, formulated and enforced by a governing body to direct and limit actions in pursuit of long-term goals.
Ban: To prohibit, especially by legal means; also, to prohibit the use, performance or distribution.
Protecting Hoosiers from the dangers of secondhand smoke is a public health issue that does not ban smoking. Smokers have the legal right to smoke; however, when smoking imposes a threat to public health, elected officials must take responsibility to protect its citizens. Smokers do not have the right to smoke anywhere, just as someone using hazardous chemicals does not have the right to use them anywhere or anytime they feel like. Secondhand smoke is airborne, thus posing a public health threat, just as hazardous chemicals. There are specific cleaning fluids that are not banned; however, there are policies in place to restrict how and when they may be used to protect the general public. It’s not a ban, it’s a policy.
For 10 years, Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation (ITPC) has been working to protect Hoosiers from the dangers of tobacco, including secondhand smoke. Yet some have misconstrued ITPC’s efforts. Public health officials, civic leaders and voters are asking for smoke-free air policies and not a ban on smoking, nor smokers. They are demanding a smoke-free air policy that sets certain restrictions and guidelines to protect all Hoosiers from the dangers of tobacco smoke. It’s not a ban, it’s a policy.
There are many school teachers and health care providers that smoke, but do they have the right to smoke while they are teaching or caring for children? There are policies in place to protect our children from those dangers. Indiana needs a comprehensive smoke-free air policy and not a smoking ban. It would be great to have elected officials, reporters and the general public to use the appropriate word and to understand the difference.