The rights of smokers vs the rights of breathers.

A Melbourne city councillor wants smoking banned in all public spaces in the CBD and the wider Melbourne City Council area.

Newly-elected councillor Richard Foster, who is finalising the proposal, says under the propsal smokers will only be able to puff away in private spaces — and then, only if they are not dining areas.

The plan to make Melbourne a smoke-free zone got us all fired up in the Mamamia office this morning — so we decided to battle it out and ask for your input.

Whose side are you on?

Kate Leaver.

FOR – Kate Leaver: “Keep your cigarettes away from sensible pink-lunged humans.”

Alright Smokey Smokersons of Victoria, here’s your ultimatum. You have until 2016 to quit, or take your habit indoors. My suggestion? Keep your cigarettes away from sensible pink-lunged humans who deserve the basic right to breathe fresh air, pronto. It’s the only respectful thing to do.

As an (arguably sanctimonious) non-smoker, I fully support the legislation that would lead to a smoke-free Melbourne. I want it bad, I want it now, and I want it Australia-wide.

To me, this is a no-brainer. The whole issue comes down to this: Which do we value more, the right to smoke or the right to breathe?

If you choose to suck on a flaming stick of tobacco, you can do that on your own time and in your own designated space. If you want to smoke, that’s cool, they’re your lungs and it’s your life. But it’s not your city. And it’s not OK for you to force people to smoke passively. All that says to me is that you prioritise your idiot decision to suck on your own personal exhaust pipe over my right to breathe fresh air. It’s only truly a ‘personal choice’ if the potentially fatal consequences of that choice are confined to the smoker, and that’s what needs to happen.

Sure, I could request that every smoker in my vicinity put out their cigarette, but the government should deal with that awkwardness on my behalf. It’s their job to keep our streets safe and protect our civil liberties. That’s precisely what they’re proposing here.

We haven’t made smoking cigarettes illegal because apparently it’s important that people are free to kill themselves one cigarette at a time if they want. But it’s only fair to make smokers smoke in a smokey smokers’ room. It’s only fair they be legally required to segregate themselves from people who value their own health.

If we make public spaces in Melbourne smoke-free, you can still smoke, you just have to change venues. It’s not a big ask.

The beautiful streets, parks, and laneways of Melbourne belong to the people of Melbourne. They belong to the public – and the majority of the public want the right to go out, have coffee, go on dates, have a drink with friends, or go for a walk without choking on smoke.

So, a smoke-free Melbourne by 2016? Yes please. And while we’re at it, let’s take this baby nationwide. State premiers, make like Melbourne and reclaim your public spaces as fresh-air sanctuaries. It’s time.

Grace Jennings-Edquist

AGAINST – Grace Jennings-Edquist: “Yes, smoking’s a massive health issue but this is just smoker-bashing on steroids”

Okay, the smoker-bashing has gone far enough.

The Melbourne city council’s proposal to make the city smoke free – at first within the “Hoddle grid”, but ultimately across the entire CBD – interferes in a perfectly legal, individual choice.

To those who argue that the de-smokifying of Melbourne needs to happen because smoking is bad for us- yes, we got that memo, thank you. But here’s the thing:  sitting at your desk for 12 hours a day is also terrible for you. So is eating lots of saturated fats. Staring at iPhone screens for half our waking lives. Drinking too much wine. Exercising for less than 30 minutes, three times a week.

And if the council tried to prohibit those lifestyle choices — the ones that go hand-in-hand with our dangerously high-stress, ultra-fast-paced lifestyles — you can bet your Smartphone that every second worker would be up in arms about government interference in private affairs. The right to control our own bodies. The personal freedom to choose how to live our lives. Etc etc angry political slogal about nanny states and civil rights etc.

So – to single out smokers is to target an unpopular minority. In fact, smoking rates are highest amongst socio-economically disadvantaged and unemployed groups — so really, to single out smokers is to target an unpopular minority amongst an unpopular minority.

And here’s another thing. I’d put my money on the fact that most people supporting the proposal haven’t ever been addicted to cigarettes.

Well, I used to be.

And I know that quitting smoking is not as easy as some authority saying “you HAVE to this now because we’d prefer you not to ingest that filthy stuff.”

(If that’d worked, smokers would never would have taken up the habit as teenagers in the face of all their parents’ warnings, would they?)

No, people smoke because they’re addicted, people. They’re not choosing to smoke to annoy you, to be a bad role model for your kids, or to make a point. They’re in the grip of an addiction that will likely be difficult and painful for them to break, and because — particularly when they’re facing loss, or anxiety, or grief (and let’s remember, you have no idea what private pain they may be tackling) — they may not feel strong enough to tackle that difficulty at this point in their lives.

So yes, smoking is a massive public health problem. And yes, I see the benefit of all smokers choosing to quit, and of encouraging that through awareness-raising campaigns and even heavy taxing of tobacco.

But no, the answer is not to impose punitive, patronising laws targeting one of a myriad damaging social habits because it’s less popular than most.

Whose side are you on? Do you think smoking should be banned in major cities?

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