Banning Smoking and Changing Your Mind
My neighborhood newspaper recently reported that Ottawa was on the verge of banning smoking on patios, in parks, and at beaches (Hofley, 2012). The public applauds this. At the end of the article, Ottawa’s medical officer of health expresses her approval because smoking causes a good deal of death. The article says that “the ban is about reducing mortality rates associated with smoking.”
I think we all agree that smoking is bad for your health. Is this a good reason to ban smoking in public places?
People seem to think that people will smoke less, or will be more inclined to quit smoking if we make it harder for them to smoke. This didn’t seem right to me. People don’t quit addictions because of inconvenience.
I thought this was yet another decision that should have been based on scientific data, but wasn’t. I still think that, in that I doubt most advocates bothered to look for data, but in my research for this entry I took a look.
I was wrong.
Turns out that banning smoking in public places does reduce smoking consumption and makes more people quit.
I suspect that part of it is because public smoking makes it more socially acceptable, and people start and keep smoking, in part, because of social acceptance.
Some people never want to be wrong, and hold on to beliefs long after they are discredited-- for reasons of honor. I don’t scold myself for being wrong. I pride myself for changing my mind in the face of empirical study. Finding yourself to be wrong is an opportunity to be a good person.
Hofley, C. (2012). Smoking ban closer to reality. Centretown Buzz, 17(2), p5.