In recent years many countries have introduced a ban on smoking in public places and/or all workplaces. In many more countries that do not yet have a ban, the issue is hotly debated. Smokers maintain their right to smoke; non-smokers maintain their right not to.
Commercial interests mainly sided with the smokers. Apart from the tobacco companies themselves, many large and small businesses from coffee shops to bars, restaurants and nightclubs were concerned that banning smoking will lose them customers. Perhaps bars and nightclubs are the most affected. Smokers almost always like to smoke along with an alcoholic drink and they may be more likely to stay home and drink if they cannot do this in their neighborhood bar.
The fact that the ban has been introduced in so many countries in spite of strong lobbying by commercial interests is a sign of the growing strength of feeling among non-smokers about being subjected to second hand smoke. The number of smokers in most Western countries has been steadily declining over the past few decades as the health risks have become more and more widely publicized. As the number of non-smokers grows to a large majority, they are more strongly voicing their feelings against the air that they breathe being polluted with tobacco smoke.
Results from many countries have shown that contrary to expectation, most businesses have not suffered from the ban. While there may be fewer smokers in coffee shops and bars, there are more non-smokers taking their places.
The ban, of course, is really just another step in a gradual change from a situation 50 years ago where almost all buildings were constantly filled with smoke. It used to be that you could not clearly see a movie from the back row of the theater because of the cloud of tobacco smoke that hung in the air. Slowly, smoking sections and non-smoking sections were introduced in most premises and on public transit, then some began to be entirely non-smoking.
In most countries that have instituted a smoking ban, the result is that no smoking is allowed in any indoor location where people work, or where the public are admitted. The definition of ‘indoor’ may vary but might include any building with at least 3 walls, or anything that has a roof, regardless of the number of walls. Temporary structures like tents may or may not be included.
In some cases, if a smoker is running a business from home that involves staff working there or clients visiting, the smoker’s own home may have to be smoke-free.
It might be thought that smokers would just go ahead and smoke in these places despite a ban. It is true that many people do things that are illegal, especially where addiction is concerned. However, smoking is a different issue because it affects non-smokers too. In any public place there will be non-smokers who will police the ban by challenging anybody who does dare to smoke, and because they are now the majority, they are able to do this very effectively.