Put ban on smoking while walkingThe early heat wave is alarming. When you walk outside, the bright sun is burning, and you soon break a sweat. What’s especially unpleasant in the heat is the cigarette smoke. During the busy times of the day, such as the commuting hours in the morning and evening as well as lunch, you would almost always smell smoke. You would be stuck with indirect smoking if a smoker is walking in front of you in a narrow alley or crowded street.
I thought I may be overly sensitive, so I searched the Internet. And other people also found smoking on the street just as unpleasant, and some even argued that it should be restricted by law. Out of fury, one even wrote, “I want to punch a pedestrian who is smoking a cigarette while walking.” A report by JTBC in March shows how frustrated and upset people are. When people on the street were asked about smoking while walking, 89 percent of the 136 respondents said it should be restricted.
Indirect smoking on the street does not stop at momentary unpleasantness. In fact, a television program followed a smoker from 1 meter (3 feet) behind with an air quality detector. Repeated tests showed that ultrafine particles were detected at rates more than 100 times higher than acceptable environmental standards.
Also, formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen, increased 32 times. It’s not hard to imagine how harmful it would be for your heath if you are exposed to this form of indirect smoking for an extended period. I don’t even need to re-emphasize that the height of a cigarette in the hand of an adult pedestrian is at the eye level of children. There are sufficient reasons to regulate smoking while walking on the street. In Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, smoking while walking is banned.
About two years ago, I wrote a column calling for a regulation on smoking while walking for the JoongAng Sunday. Just in time, a by-election for the Seoul mayor was held, and the ruling party candidate included a ban on smoking while walking in the campaign promises. However, the candidate did not win the election, and not much has changed. Instead, the situation worsened. As the nonsmoking zones have been expanded, smokers light up cigarettes as soon as they are on the street. The suffering of the nonsmokers is also growing proportionally.
However, since smoking itself is not illegal, we cannot demand that smokers refrain from smoking everywhere. We don’t even need to refer to a foreign example. Let’s look at Incheon International Airport and Gimpo Airport. A separate smoking room is set up outside the passenger terminal. Smokers can enjoy their cigarettes as much as they like without posing a health risk or unpleasantness to pedestrians.
The same can be applied to the urban streets. Smoking areas can also be designated and installed, and smoking in other spaces should be restricted. The government and local administrative agencies should not let smoking while walking continue to bother citizens any longer. Related laws and regulations need to be promptly prepared and implemented. Only then, both smokers and nonsmokers can live comfortably and happily.
*The author is the first national news editor of JTBC.
By KANG GAP-SAENG