[LETTERS to the editor]For youths’ health, ban public smoking

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[LETTERS to the editor]For youths’ health, ban public smoking

The Korean government is currently considering legislation prohibiting smoking in places frequented by teenagers, such as PC rooms. I support this measure for three reasons. Many countries now ban smoking in public places; the number of teenage smokers increases when they are exposed to smoking; and secondhand smoke is harmful to health, especially for young people.
We should follow the example of many developed countries, which strictly regulate smoking in public places. England last year banned smoking in public places. On July 1, 2007, a new law was passed that banned smoking in pubs and restaurants. The British government expects to reduce the number of smokers as a result of the law. It was a good decision because a government statistic showed that 68 percent of smokers in England wanted to quit but felt it would be difficult to go through the whole day without smoking. The new law helps smokers to quit by eliminating smoking in places where they eat and drink. In Japan, very strict anti-smoking laws make it illegal to smoke not only inside but also outdoors in public places.
Moreover, teenagers tend to be attracted to smoking when they are exposed to adult smokers. According to the Health Guide from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs, 57 percent of teenage smokers have family members who smoke. Also, a study conducted by Dartmouth University and published in the famous British medical journal The Lancet, showed that 52 percent of teen smokers were enticed to smoke after watching movie stars smoking onscreen. These data show that teenagers are easily influenced by smokers they admire.
Last but not least, secondhand smoke is known to be more harmful to nonsmokers than to smokers. According to the American Lung Association, secondhand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) causes cancer in humans and exposure to it causes illness and premature deaths in children and adults who do not smoke. New evidence reported by Bradley Collins, an assistant professor of public health and the director of the Health Behavior Research Clinic at Temple University in Philadelphia, proved that secondhand smoke increased test failure rates for teenagers in school. “Our retrospective study suggests that in adolescents, secondhand smoke exposure could interfere with academic test performance,” Dr. Collins said. He and his colleagues also discovered that teenagers exposed to secondhand smoke at home had lowered chances of passing standardized achievement tests by 30 percent in 16 and 18 year-olds.
Some people might say non-smokers should make their own efforts to stay away from smoke. But this is impossible when people smoke in public places, particularly in indoor restaurants or PC rooms. I expect there would be a lot of opposition to any ban on public smoking, especially from the owners of restaurants or PC rooms because adults also visit these places. Some might say adults’ right to smoke should be respected. However, I believe we should value teenagers’ health over the right to smoke in public places.

Choi Ayeon, Ilsan

*e-mail to eopinion@joongang.co.kr or via fax to 82-2-751-9219

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