Non-smoker and Smoker Rights

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sign outside of commercial hotel, saying "no smoking in this area"

The "rights" based debate is much confused, with much distortion of the english language and abuse by vested interests. Pointing to the spectre of a patronising intrusive Government, people forget that corporations can still play with our heads.

Setting the Scene


Smoking brings up a lot of tension in society. People claim the "right" to smoke, portraying those who challenge this as "wowsers". A stronger right, however, is the right to clean air. In the confusion, people pretend this doesn't exist. For, it seems the right to smoke gets mixed up with the right to be addicted, with corporate interests benefitting from these ideals of freedom.

But ... let me be clear. I am not against smoking. I approve of people smoking, provided they do not affect others. We want to isolate its impact. That not only means stopping cigarette smoke from affecting others, stopping litter from cigarette butts, but also having private health insurance, so that the state does not have to pay for your choices - and also, if applicable, life insurance, so dependants do not pay for your choices, either.

So - let's be clear, much as puritan libertarians bang the drum : I am not against smoking.

Enjoyment or addiction ?

Some people claim smokers "enjoy" their cigarettes. And, well, at the start of the developing addiction, people probably do enjoy that nicotine rush. But, as time goes on, people grab for the cigarette out of compulsion, not a choice which involves "enjoyment". In psychological terms, we can say that "pleasure" has been replaced with "reward" - but the "dark side" of "reward", now representing an addiction. My friend Gemma has written on this; you'll find some further information on her blog, more a development from internet addiction, but also bearing on nicotine addiction.

While some people may be comfortable with their relationship to nicotine, the fact remains that the majority of smokers would rather not be. The majority are addicted in a way which is outside the grasp of their will-power to control.

The strange thing is, this whole issue is clouded with a lot of rhetoric around "freedom". Supposedly the market provides people with their wants as they go out into the market and are satisfied. But, the point is, many people's relationship with the market is ultimately destructive. This is plainly seen with people who are addicted to gambling and harder drugs like heroin. But, in the middle, there are people who struggle to lose weight, and yet, on an ongoing basis, they purchase the very things that undermine their own goals. This is the market at work, facilitating people's free choices.

Puritan libertarians bang on about people's sovereignty to make their own choices, with "wowsers" wanting to intervene patronisingly in their choices. Now, look, I sure don't want to be patronising about people's choices. But it is not like they are polar opposites. In the middle, we can say we don't want to intervene patronisingly, but also recognise that humans have a great deal of failings - and that it is very possible that financial interests will set themselves up to take advantage of those failings, undermining individual sovereignty.

These things are becoming apparent. We have bounded rationality - we never have all the information, and our ability to process what we know is problematic. We have bounded will-power. At worst, we are hopelessly addicted; somewhat milder we may struggle to achieve things we actually want. We focus on the familiar, and struggle to go outside our comfort zone - much as some government policy and much libertarian rhetoric is about us making choices amongst options we are fully aware of and have no emotional gaps to breach. We are terrible at objective risk assessment, under and over evaluating risks as the mood takes us, and we are averse to losses, even when it's a "good bet". We suffer from confirmation bias, and have overconfidence in our personal beliefs.

This is the thing that we are, the thing that is able to make those wonderful, properly informed autonomous decisions that the libertarians bang on about. You can see more of this at the RSA talk, but there are also various websites describing logical and psychological biases.

Still, I'm not trying to undermine personal sovereignty. We have to make our own decisions. After all, nobody else can. But, equally, it's not something to overload to breaking point with our deep seated political convictions, either.


The Harms around Smoking

Smoker Harm

Smoking kills many people. Some smokers claim they are not worried about dying - but they imagine they will live a good life till they suddenly drop off the perch. In fact, for many smokers death becomes a slow lingering process, courtesy of all the cigarettes they have smoked - gangrene, emphysema, cancer. Yes, some people will "get away with" their smoking, and live into old age. But the odds are fifty:fifty. Not good. But many young people do not see enough people in this condition to properly appreciate what can be ahead.

Globally - noted in 2010 - tobacco was killing over 5 million people a year - the second most preventable cause of death after poverty - and more than all the wars on the planet. In Australia, there were 15,500 preventable deaths each year resulting from tobacco - second only to obesity. However, the number of such deaths is in decline.

Needless to say, such deaths and the illness prior to death is a drain on our economy - on our shared prosperity. In terms of the actual government budget - to the extent that we can identify smoking related expenditures - yes, smoking does bring more money into the Government coffers than the related direct expenditures. However, our economy is bigger than just the Government. In 2004/05 the total cost of smoking in Australia was estimated at $31.5 billion - which compared with a total tax take of $2.8 billion. Smoking is therefore a net drain on our whole economy. ( see here )

Nevertheless - as noted elsewhere - it is of course the right of people to commit such acts of self-harm and ultimately kill themselves - so long as they isolate the impact of their actions to just themselves. The idea that people are making a "choice" in the context of an addiction is a dubious one in any case. Still, when it comes to bedrock - yes, while these deaths and illnesses are of concern to everyone, it is also the right of people to put their lives on trajectories leading to these outcomes.

Nowadays the links between smoking and health conditions are pretty well known. However, in times past tobacco companies were in denial about it - perhaps because of lawsuits, but perhaps because people would smoke less if they had realistic ideas about the consequences. Now, as I've said, I'm not against people smoking - if you don't affect others, have private health insurance, and want to cause self harm to yourself - go ahead. It's your decision. But this sort of informed decision making does not ever seem to have been embraced by the tobacco companies. They've never said something like :

This product we sell you has a well attested chance of making you ill and dying an early death. As you use it, you may well experience a pleasurable sensation at some stage, but this has a good chance of turning into addictive behaviour, where the language used to describe the consumption - be it "enjoyment" or "compulsion" is somewhat confused. Nevertheless, it is your choice to consume it, and we will provide it so that you may fullfill that choice.

Passive Smoking

Passive smoking can cause harm; it is not just unpleasant or inconvenient. Non-smoking partners of smokers are more likely to develop cancers. For heart disease and lung cancer, the US surgeon general has found that living or working in a place where smoking is permitted increases the non-smoker's risk of the two diseases by 25-30% and 20-30% respectively.

Passive smoking is also known to cause other diseases, including ear infections, asthma & other respiratory diseases, allergies and skin problems, not to mention the particular effects on children and foetuses during pregnancy.

We have a right to unpolluted air - to clear toxin free air - to be free from harms. This right is one of the motivations for regulating tobacco. (There are also concerns about freedom to do self-harm and the burden on health system).

If you can smell it, you are inhaling it into your lungs, and every increment is causing harm, increasing your chance of cancer and other diseases.

Stronger harms from passive smoking

For athma sufferers, smoking can bring on an athma attack. For them, a smoke filled area is just as much a no-go zone for a wheelchair user who is challenged by stairs. It was the motivation for banning smoking in cars with children. But, nevertheless, at many venues where children attending are a part of the scene - for example, the Royal Easter Show or even local fairs or even open-air live music venues - people will smoke without any regard for the children present. A 13 year old supporter of NRL at Brookvale Oval had athma attacks triggered by tobacco smoke - something which prompted a ban on smoking inside the venue ( it was still possible to smoke outside). I'm aware of a mother of a 4 year old child, where neighbours smoke with indifference to her pleas.

Even at the Royal Easter Show, where smoking areas have been set up, people still needed to be coerced into using them.

Then you see women in prams, holding a cigarette, and trying to hold it away from the pram. It is staggering to see that the addiction to nicotine can be so strong that it collides with the mother's nurturing instinct - and you can see that struggle in the position of the cigarette, and the angle of the arm at the shoulder. In fact, given that you have smoking mothers, you can see just how smokers would be indifferent to smoking in front of other people's children - with most non-smokers would finding this abhorrent.

Needless to say, smoking while pregnant harms the unborn child, and while not good for any mother and unborn child, it is particularly prevalent amongst aboriginal communities and others in low socio-economic groups.

Pollution from cigarette butts

All around, you see cigarette butt litter. In fact, the Freshwater SLSC reports that "In the past clean ups we have collected over 150kgs of rubbish off Freshwater Beach. By far the most overwhelming rubbish found is the 2,500 cigarette butts . this despite a smoking ban on all Warringah Council beaches including Freshwater!". So, on beaches we see the impacts, because they are so obvious - but in fact, it is a problem all over.


Fire & Rescue NSW notes how they attend to hundreds of fires started by cigarette butts. We can imagine that some of these fires will develop into the large damage-causing "bushfires". It's understood that the West Bendigo fire, one of the 2009 Victorian bushfires - resulting in two dead and fifty lost homes - was caused by a tossed cigarette butt. You can be prosecuted for flinging a lit cigarette butt. Just as we might be puzzled about those who smoke unconcerned around children - we can be puzzled at this reckless harming behaviour. It's something which is often conveniently ignored.

Smoking and Geography

Outdoor smoking and cafes

In NSW, there is a ban on smoking at venues where you eat food ( and also at various other locations in the past). Various councils around NSW previously prohibited outdoor smoking. Still, there is now a consequence - roaming groups of smokers and cigarette butt litter in areas such as the CBD. There's now also litter from take away cups. Perhaps some smokers will be responsible in the disposal of their butts and used coffee cups - or perhaps use their own permanent "keep-cups" - but if they were going to litter with their butts, we can't expect them to suddenly develop responsibility around their take-away cups - and the impact will be dominated by the inconsiderate smokers.

We have the much abused 75/25 rule, where if an area was "25% open" it is considered open and smoking. It's a strange definition that belies common sense. That's something the ACT Government found strange, and reversed the idea. But it remains so in NSW. It is how people can continue to play pokies in a "partly outdoor" environment. Apart from one addiction - nicotine - taking over the brain's reward centres, we have the further "pokie trance" that operators want to maintain, but removing the need for people to ever leave the pokies. Strange, how "addiction" is called a "choice" that others can benefit financially from.

There's always been controversy about patronage, as though non-smokers had to pay for restaurants to stay open. But, the fact remains that after a South Curl Curl cafe became smoke free ( of its own accord, without being obliged by Council), its patronage levels increased. When you consider that only 15-20% of people smoke, this is not at all surprising. But, in spite of this, a group of shops in Parramatta legally challenged that Council when they wanted to introduce a smoking ban.

However, while this ban has been implemented - first by councils and now by the NSW Government - there have been naysayers claiming that it was "because of smokers that they provided outdoor seating, and now the non-smokers are trying to take advantage of it". Well, this is just plain wrong. Outdoor seating was a "thing" before there was a ban on indoor smoking! It was there for, well, people who liked sitting outdoors. As indeed were "beer gardens". Now, when the ban on indoor smoking came along, some venues did provide outdoor seating where it had not been previously provided - yes - but the point remains - it was a "thing" prior to the indoor smoking ban, and did not suddenly appear for the first time as a result.

Strangely, just as the 75/25 notion was abused in the past, now venues have been stopping outdoor eating rather than outdoor smoking! Well, how's that! I can only hope that venues which do provide outdoor non-smoking eating areas prosper in the market. In Sydney, we might have to wait for the temperature to improve before it is really noticeable, but I hope it does happen. Jay Mc Garrity snapped a picture of the Commercial Hotel in Parramatta - illustrated with this article.

Smoking on the streets and in doorways

Now, much as you can often smoke while walking around, and frequently cannot smoke where people congregate, it is possible to move away from entrances so as to at least minimise the impact of your smoking. However, we know of many cases where smokers choose to stay in the proximity of bus stops and doorways - even - doorways to child care centres - when they could make the effort moving away if they could be bothered.

Strata Units

However, a separate issue around smoking is to do with the ability of Councils, Owner's Corporations and so forth to declare areas to be smoke free. Uncontroversially, the Owners' Corporation of a block can prohibit residents from owning animals. This is an intrusion into people's lives, but it is a part of the contract involved in living with others in a unit. There is no basic right to smoke, and so prohibiting smoking is not discriminatory, in the same way as there is no right to accomodate a pet.

It is the majority that operates in an Owner's Corporation. The majority can decide to impose levies in order to properly maintain the common property - coercion on behalf of the majority. The Owner's Corporation also has an obligation to maintain the common property - one owner successfully sued the owner's corporation for a failure of maintenance, which meant that water leaked and damaged his unit - to the tune of at least $150,000 (That's the Seiwa judgement of 2007).

These majority agreements are expressed through the by-laws of the Owner's Corporation. By-laws must receive 75% support from those voting. This democratic majority - and we're not just talking about imposing something which has just scraped over the 50% line, but rather something which has stronger support - is a majority which has the power to impose conditions on all the owners. That includes paying levies, controlling noise that affects others, owning pets ... or smoking. It's what an owner's corporation can control. Further, compared to loud music, smoking is more than just an inconvenience - it is a health hazard.

This control of smoking has been validated by the courts. Legal cases include one at Kent Street - the so called "Highgate Case". In November 2006, G J Durie found that smoke from one unit affecting people in other units was a "nuisance" and not allowed under the Strata Schemes Management Act 1996. Durie emphasised that whether or not the tenants smoked "excessively", the crucial thing was whether it caused a problem for others.

Some units have decided that smoking will not be allowed in their unit. An increasing number of Owner's Corporations have declared their units to be smoke-free - newspapers have noted units in Ashfield and Chatswood.

In 2008, Barrister Peter Lavac developed lung cancer, after making the efforts to reduce the exposure by communicating with his neighbours - something he was contemplating suing his neighbours over. While a by-law of the owner's corporation has the ability to control smoking, in its absence, it is still possible for an individual owner to initiate a civil suit against smoking neigbours.

There is talk about the introduction of new laws around strata schemes, where smoking will be deemed a nuisance, with the possibility of imposing fines for smokers. If and when these new laws are implemented, they will represent a definite improvement.

There's still an issue that unit holders must take the initiative in making a block of units smoke-free - while "in principle" we should be properly aware of our options and make decisions in that context, one reality is that we are un-aware and reticent to take the plunge into unfamiliar territory, even if, "in principle" we can make these decisions. Our rationality is bounded - amongst other issues - as I've noted previously. Also, strange to say, there's a long history of hostility developing within a block of units when one of the residents brings up concern about tobacco smoke. By delegating this responsibility in the way they do, the laws in fact become a breeding ground for conflict.

Smoking in Prisons

As with any other workplace, it is important that employees be protected from harm. As the result of second hand smoke. Employees are known to have died from cancer, and have been involved with ongoing struggles with smoke in the workplace.

New Zealand prisons are smoke free, and in Australia this would meet our commitment under the WHO framework for Tobacco Control.

Rather than thinking of a prisoner's cell being his home, in fact it is a publicly funded space, and I don't believe prisoners have ever had access to alcohol in the context of "having their own space". I do not wish to arbitrarily deny prisoners their space to run their lives; but prisons fit into a context - of the need to provide a smoke - free workplace. It is still possible for prisoners to absorb nicotine through nicotine patches, snuff or other approaches. The important thing is that they are not smoking on order to absorb nicotine. Their impact on others through their smoking is the issue - not their absorbing nicotine, which I'm not trying to stop them doing.

Some other issues


There's a lot of controversy around this new-fangled thing. As a means to help quit smoking, that's one thing - maybe it's effective, and if people want to genuinely relate to them in this fashion, I'll leave them to it. However, the main controversy over them is their use as a replacement for cigarettes, which clearly a lot of people are doing.

Now, speaking in terms of impact on both the smoker and those around, the impact from e-cigs is going to be less. Certainly. Quite apart from addiction, nicotine has its own toxicity which is unavoidable, but well that's sorta the main point. While the details remain to be worked out, I suspect that vapours would not pass between units as much as does the smoke from regular cigarettes, so this would be an improvent.

However, there are still valid concerns about the side effects of the carriers and the vapours exhaled by the e-cig user, particularly on others in the proximity of the user. It's not like these things are pushed down to zero. And further, whatever else you might say about cigarette companies, at least their product has a traceable supply chain and is a known quantity. Further, nicotine patches and similar are properly regulated. E-cigs are currently unregulated and represent an unknown for both the user and the people around them.

So, e-cigs should not be embraced as some sort of magic zero impact solution, but rather something that is less worse than regular cigarettes. If e-cig use were to become prevalent, you could have a situation where the overall impact of nicotine delivery on others is increased. And further, you can wonder about the motives of what will probably be tobacco firms getting in on the act, given just how shifty they have been about cigarettes over the last few decades. It does not bode well.
So, in summary - e-cigs are a less worse option, not a magic bullet.

Ethical smokers?

Now, it may well be that out there there are ethical smokers. People who make a point of not smoking around children ( and not just their own children ), don't litter with their cigarette butts, have private health insurance and make a point of not letting their smoking affect others - by moving away from bus stops, entrances ( in particular around child care centres) and other places where people congregate.

However, these people are hugely outnumbered by the people who litter with their cigarette butts, ignore no smoking signs and do not even go further from an entrance than is required, smoke in venues which are clearly intended as family venues with children, and then complain about cafe outdoor smoking being limited because "it was there because of the smokers".

The problem is that we need to allow for the fact that the vast majority of smokers are .... well inconsiderate and selfish ( and you can use your imagination about stronger words I'd be tempted to use). Or, you might be a bit forgiving and say that their addiction is clouding their ethical judgement. Now, if you are an ethical smoker reading this, great. As I've said, I've no problems with smokers who try to isolate the impacts of their smoking from others. The problem is, that untill the vast majority of smokers suddenly become decent people, we have to deal with the actions of the vast majority. That's an unfortunate reality. It is a bit like dealing with gun ownership in the US, as commented on by the Australian comedian.

Places to smoke

Now, something some smokers ask is "well, where will we smoke?". Well, really it is not the problem of non-smokers to provide for smokers to smoke. Smoker's rights stop at their lips. The onus is on non-smokers to arrange for themselves a way of smoking without affecting others - not for our society to lay out a path for them. Maybe that means smoking inside a sealed home with particulate filters. Or alternatively, they can find ways of absorbing the nicotine into their systems without smoking - approaches such as nicotine patches and similar.

One compromise would be to have set-aside areas for people to smoke, away from entrances, so at least people would not be "walking around", smoking.

But look ... remember how I was saying you should not affect others? The problem with the current arrangement is that every cafe, pub what-have-you with street frontage has been tempted to provide accommodation for smokers, linked to its street exposure.

Now, I would be willing for there to be licences applied for and renewable by auction, of perhaps 20 smoking establishments around Sydney. Places where people could gather together to communally commit acts of self-harm, with employees sharing the risks and hopefully being properly remunerated. The limitations would be :

  • All staff to be smokers for at least 5 years, assented by Statutory Declaration
  • Customers be members who have signed off on responsibility for their attendance
  • Workers' compensation insurance explicitly recognise the features of the workplace
  • The establishment to be in a recognised industrial area, so as not to compete with existing "non-smoking" clubs and other venues
  • No poker machines allowed
  • The establishment would be located above ground, accessed by stairs or elevator
  • Particulate filtering of the air would be provided so as not to affect neighbours with smoke seepage, with limits to be set for effects on neighbours
  • The licensing of such premises being predicated on there being ample jobs available for staff at non-smoking establishments, so that people never feel forced to work at such establishments

Now, such venues would in a sense be privileged establishments, but this would be compensated for by the licenses being renewable by auction, so that the value of the "privilege" would be paid for by the owner and recouped by Government.

There's an associated problem, however, that such workplaces will be inherently risky, which may cause Workplace Health & Safety issues. Now, some jobs are riskier than others - for example construction and mining - or, indeed divers working on oil rigs. Still, employers and individuals can still be held responsible for negligence. However, to some degree the remuneration does incorporate a recognition of the level of risk ( there's so-called "danger, height and dirt money" ). Still, it is a strange thing to hold work in the hospitality industry as being similar to the choice to take risks as you would in a mining or other job. I'm not sure about the ability of employers to set up a risky workplace, and the the ability of employees to make a genuine free choice to work in such dangerous conditions. But, note I've tried to incorporate the notion that such establishments could only be opened in times of bouyant employment in hospitality elsewhere. But it does remain an issue. You wonder if some people might be willing to throw away their future in order to pay of their mortgage off more rapidly or whatever. Ah, the perils of free choice. Still, I do talk about proper worker's compensation insurance being provided.

Note that after you incorporate all these factors in, it may be that it is not economic to run such a business. Well, so be it. I'm not against running such a business, any more than I am against smoking. But all the impacts and risks should be properly quantified either mitigated or insured for. At least then the impact would be isolated, if it were possible. And that would be a good outcome.

Market based solutions

With in the order of 13% of Australian adults smoking, it is clear that enforcing non- smoking venues will not result in a significant drop in patronage. In cases like the North Curl Curl cafe, they noticed an increase in patronage when they went smoke free of their own accord.

The problem is that few businesses today are willing to take a stand on principle, and the almighty dollar looms over their decision making process, sometimes irrationally. It's one cost of the unfortunately "high rev" economy we're embedded in. Businesses are less able to think "community" along with making a profit. If there were an equilibrium, we could have 13% of cafes providing smoking facilities and the majority not. However, this would never have happened in the current environment, and so I certainly endorse the outdoor eating non-smoking legislation. Further, there's the economic ideal that people have freedom to be employed by many employers. The reality is that many employees will be concerned about their jobs, with employers holding all the cards. Staff who have in the past been concerned about the smoking in their environment have not felt in a strong enough position to actually complain and/or do something about it. There's a definite problem that is excused away.

Still, even with the current laws, venues can still have outdoor areas set aside where there is no consumption of food and smoking. So, there will still be the opportunity for the venues which have outdoor eating to compete with those that do not provide it. I hope that the effects like we've seen for the North Curl Curl cafe will become prominent, with business seeing they've benefitted from that choice, after the dust has settled. I hope I can in fact facilitate this awareness on the part of business owners, together with an appreciation for these venues on the part of customers.

But, providing some limited smoking venues, where the impact is contained so that smokers only affect fellow smokers, is something I am comfortable with. The problem is that "regular" venues might resent the relative monopoly of these smoking venues - I've tried to reduce that issue by having bids for the licenses and having them in industrial areas with arrangements to minimise the impacts on others.

The record of Tobacco Companies

Apart from being in denial about the effect of tobacco on smokers, tobacco companies have also been behaving unethically throughout the world. Historically, they have explicitly advertised to children - it is known that promotion in areas where children are present will appeal to children - a side effect of supposed promotion to adults that has not been explicitly recognised by tobacco companies.

In Australia, when we were introducing plain packaging, tobacco companies tried to use a trade agreement with Hong Kong to obtain compensation from the Australian Government. So, health policy should be subservient to commercial interests? Needless to say, it didn't happen.

But, throughout the third world, tobacco companies are pushing cigarettes and abusing local legal systems - even trying to cite the minority view of the Australian courts ( as compared to actually acknowledging that the judgement went against them ) to overseas courts and governments, including Uruguay. This ridiculous situation was outlined by John Oliver - see here.

So, this is big tobacco - nobly providing tobacco for those sovereign consumers whose free choice has brought them to the table for a commercial transaction? Who really are just decent, ethical firms trying to do business and serve a need in the face of just so much unfair targeting and labelling?

A good encapsulation has been: "more money than God and the social conscience of a dog on a croquet lawn".

Risks in Context

Still, there is a context here. The tiniest amount of tobacco smoke presents a risk. Still, there are certainly many risks in the world. Just being alive is risky. Participating in the benefits that society brings is not without risk. We do need to look at how an additional risk compares to the general risks of being alive. I suggest a better approach is to say we have a right to be free of risks that are avoidable, have resulted from other's direct actions, and noticeably increase risks over and above the existing "background" of risks we deal with in regular day-to-day life.

This sort of analysis is not without precedent. There's a 0.05 limit to blood alcohol while driving. In the ACT, it used to be 0.08. On the one hand, you have freedom to drive a car. Perhaps it's a right, maybe a privilege. While you can drink a little and drive, at some point you impose an excessive risk on others. For 0.05 BAC, your chance of having an accident is double what it would otherwise be. For 0.08 it is triple, or perhaps even quadruple ( note for example here and here (pdf document). Here risks and the impacts you have on others are balanced against the freedom to drive a car.

On the one hand, I think we have more right to clean air than smokers have a right to smoke. On the other hand though, it is also important to be balanced in our risk assesments, and certainly acknowledge that there are other sources of harm apart from second hand smoke. Nevertheless, this still means that smokers should not be able to impact on others in the way they do, much as some try to confuse the argument. Further, they can still absorb nicotine into their systems without smoking, using nicotine patches and similar - completely eliminating the impact on others. Yes there are other risks - but the risk of smoke and particulates associated with nicotine absorbtion can readily be reduced to zero.

Annoyance, Harm, and the NSW Council for Civil Liberties

Previous statements by Cameron Murphy in 2011, the then President of the NSW CCL have equivocated, where he seemed to ignore the toxicity of cigarette smoke, saying it was alright to ban smoking when it affected another person's enjoyment, but it had to be "more than a mere annoyance".

He ended up wondering about coffee aromas and the smell of cooking. ( He also wondered about what you do in the bedroom - I'd not want that restricted, other things being equal, but won't be considering it here.) There's an important distinction - coffee and cooking aromas are not toxic - they are not carcinogens - and we're more likely talking about molecules, not smoke particulates. Further, while tobacco smoke leaves residues on wall, coffee aromas do no such thing, while for cooking this is a very limited effect.

They previously had a policy around smoking of : This Council believes that any individual's liberty should only be curtailed when in impinges on the liberties of others. We do not oppose the sale of tobacco products to adults. It is a person's right to use any legal substance, but the context of use should be dependent on the health and comfort of others. Smoking should only be allowed when there is no likelihood of passive smoking causing harm to others. (I was not able to obtain a more recent policy from their website). In my own personal experience, even with this policy in place, the NSW CCL previously seemed to have a blind spot on health issues, focusing on other harms where you are "denied your liberty" - in particular abuses by Government ( and by implication, along the way, effectively recognising a "right to smoke" - though I'd differ on the validity of such a notion). This issue was not about the abuses of individual rights by Government or large corporations - but rather the impacts of individuals on each other. The law can help justice - or it can be used by individuals to facilitate an abuse. Basically, the Government and corporations are not our only enemies - we can be enemies of each other too, with the legal system facilitating that abuse rather than protecting our liberties - something which seemed to have been lost on the NSW CCL.

Nevertheless, recent statements indicate the NSW CCL has developed what I would consider a more reasonable approach to smoking: "An owners corporation for a block of flats can regulate smoking on balconies, and perhaps should where it’s detrimentally affecting other residents who don’t want it." - Stephen Blanks, President, speaking on the Project, 13th January 2015.

While people should be free to do their own thing so long as they do not interfere with other's enjoyment of their own lives, the plain fact is that smokers usually affect others. Sure, if people smoked in the privacy of their own homes without affecting others, and fully covered their own health costs, no problem. People do have the freedom to do self harm - within reason. But this is not the reality of the world around us. These complexities are worth recognising.


People can smoke if they do not affect others. While a simple notion, issues around smoking have been much confused by linguistic abuse and legal abuse, with companies that have a vested financial interesting helping all this along, and an ignorance of the economic issues further muddying the water. I can only hope that as we all get more familiar with the subtleties of the world around us, we can move to a world where smokers can still smoke - or absorb their nicotine - without affecting others.