Smoke free zones outside and their impact

Smoke free zones outside and their impact.

I heard on the news today that Bristol are trialling set outdoor zones where smoking is banned. It is part of a drive to encourage it’s citizens to give up smoking. However, it struck me as having environmental and safety causes too.

I’m sure we’ve all seen the smoking areas outside pubs and restaurants, or rather, the state of the floor in these areas; littered with still-alight cigarettes, butts, cans, crisp packets etc etc. We already know that a large part of the drive to keep smoking is the social aspect, the chance to take a break at work (which in many companies, sadly, non-smokers are not offered) and to catch up with colleagues or make phone calls. However, this congregation does appear to lead to a rise in litter in such areas. Having areas such as picnic spots in areas of nature such as forests and parks also risk this litter, as people will stop to smoke between activities. The litter gets blown around, or the still-alight butts get settled in some dry brush and there could be more than just littering issues to worry about.

Consider also the scenario of a music festival; thousands of people crammed close together, smoke inadvertently being passively inhaled, hot cigarettes perilously close to clothes and skin and still-alight butts being dropped at people’s feet. To allow smoking in these situations can be considered a hazard, especially where it is likely that alcohol will have been consumed and spatial awareness lowered.

Perhaps the idea of selected “smoke free” zones in public could provide us with better social opportunities and outdoor activities. There would be less call for controlling natural areas, as the risk of dry-brush fires and hazardous litter would be lowered. Music festivals could have their “risk-lists” reduced slightly, (although I have no problem accepting they are the not safest places to be anyway) and most of all, we might see a drop in the number of times wildlife are spotted making nests with harmful cigarette butts and packets.

All in all, the idea of having protected areas where smoking is banned doesn’t seem like such a harsh idea, considering the issues raised above and the limited number of outside areas that smoking could be viably banned. Lets hope that these trial areas achieve more than just encouraging citizens to kick the habit, and allow us to preserve our environment as well as protect our safety.

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