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Monday, July 8, 2013

The Fight Against Passive Smoke Continues

I'd like to comment on very interesting figures published in the Korea Times today*:

  • Smoking rates among adults keeps decreasing in Seoul, to almost one in five (22.4% in 2012, down from 24.8% in 2008). That's good news for the people who stopped smoking, but does it mean that we non-smokers are less exposed?
  • Not really: 90.8% of Seoulites remain exposed to passive smoke. That's a bit less than in 2009 (92.4%), but it still means that even if only a minority smokes, almost everybody is victim. And as everybody knows, passive smoke is not only a major nuisance, but a lethal aggression that kills hundreds of thousands of people every year.
  • Seoulites are exposed an average 12.9 mn a day of passive smoke, including 10 mn indoors. Adults sleeping an average 7 to 8 hours per day, that would mean 1.2% of our awake time. For your information, studies estimated to between 6 and 7 mn the average smoking time for one cigarette, and to 11 mn the average loss of life expectancy for every "coffin nail" smoked.
  • If the number of occurences diminishes indoors, the average duration rises. Bars and restaurants remain the main indoor locations where people are exposed to smoke, and Seoul wants to get even tougher on regulations there. Fine (and I mean literally: heavy fine for the culprits, both the tenant and the patron).
  • Seoul has also banned smoking from a lot of public spaces, particulary in parks, plazas, around schools (e.g. "Smoke free Korea winning ground"), and more and more apartment blocks are supposedly 'smoke free'. Good. But you keep seeing people smoke right next to 'no smoking' signs, be it in staircases, restrooms, or at the feet of buildings, and that's where the fines should be the toughest.
  • Seoul should also make sure that terrasses are not used by restaurants and cafes to bypass the laws, like in Paris where most streets have become simply irrespirable, particularly now that all smokers go down from their office buildings or shops to puff on the sidewalks.

Cigarettes are leathal weapons. If you want to shoot a gun, that's okay for me, but do it only in a site that is dedicated to shooting, and recognized as such by everyone, shooters as well as non-shooters. And even if you're a sharp shooter, you wouldn't shoot your gun on the streets, would you? Well the trajectory of smoke is much less controlable than the trajectory of a bullet, and when you smoke on the street, even if you can't see anyone around you, you leave messages not only to pedestrians but to the people who let their windows open.

I may sound like an anti-smoking ayatollah - heck, I may be one -, but statistics prove that only well implemented regulations get results. That's also the best way of helping smokers quit, and in a country like the US, 69% of adult smokers want to quit. Actually, there are often the ones worrying the most about the consequences of their habits.

Seoul Village 2013
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* "Seoul citizens exposed to 13 minutes of passive smoke"

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