Hasty No-Smoking MeasuresAfter President Kim Dae-jung stressed the harms of smoking, no-smoking campaigns are coming out full blast. Many government offices seem to be in a competition to come up with measures. The dangers of second-hand smoke are no news, but the officials are scrambling for action at the mere drop of the president" words. In a briefing at the Health and Welfare Ministry, President Kim mentioned the gravity of cancer and said, " understand that cigarette smoking is a major cause of lung cancer. Yet TV stations air scenes in which actors smoke and drink, and because of smoking in restaurants and other public places, people suffer from secondhand smoke." He then directed that scenes of smoking and drinking be curtailed on TV and that the ministry prepare a measure to ban smoking in public places.
No-smoking is a worldwide trend, and it is an undeniable reality that smokers enjoy an everdwindling place in society. It is medically proven that smoking is bad for your health. While in office, former President Bill Clinton likened smoking to narcotics and launched a no-smoking campaign. Thus, President Kim" emphasis on no-smoking and his instruction to prepare measures can be deemed natural.
The problem is that the concerned ministries have been putting forth half-baked ideas. It is questionable whether a set of measures discouraging consumption by raising a cigarette tax, a dramatic expansion of no-smoking zones, the designation of smoke-free buildings and slapping fines up to 100,000 won ($80) on those who smoke in no-smoking zones have gone through a proper review process. We would like to ask why the policies to enhance national health have been neglected so far and whether a public consensus has been formed on the no-smoking issue.
When switching policies, it is desirable to make decisions from the bottom up, starting with studies and suggestions at related departments. For the measures to curb smoking, too, the first order ought to be active debates centered on the offices in charge. If civil servants have done nothing but are making a fuss after a president instruction, they deserve criticism that they are only interested in maintaining calm and do not launch anything that may roil the waters. Since raising cigarette prices and reinforcing penalties are directly linked to ordinary people everyday life, a process of examining possible problems is needed.