Smoking is banned almost everywhere except home, and everywhere we go we are reminded that smoking is prohibited, or that we are in a smoke-free area.
While I empathize with smokers and their need to find a place to smoke, they also need to respect the right of others to a smoke-free environment.
Some smokers totally ignore the no-smoking signs posted near public buildings.
Others fail to heed the painted lines and no-smoking messages on the walkways and entrances to public buildings.
If reminded that the area is no-smoking, some smokers will quickly move or butt out. Others pretend not to hear a comment about the no-smoking zone, or give that stare or glare and continue to smoke.
Whatever the response, most smokers obviously know that there are really no consequences for ignoring the smoking ban.
With little or no enforcement of smoking prohibitions, some people will just continue to ignore signs and comments from passersby annoyed by their second-hand smoke.
A couple of recent experiences have really reinforced the problem with the ban and smokers.
When I visited the Carbonear Tim Hortons on Saturday, two guys were enjoying a smoke by the door. I asked an employee what they do about the smokers and she explained that they cannot get them to stop.
After listening to the defeat in her voice, she offered to get the manager for me, but I decided against it. What was I going to tell the manager that he or she did not already know about the smokers at the door?
During another visit to the same coffee shop earlier this summer, a paramedic or ambulance attendant was also engaging in his habit in the no-smoking zone at the door.
His North Shore Ambulance was parked in front of him.
I commented that he should not be smoking, especially as he was an ambulance attendant, but it made no difference. He continued to smoke.
We all know that smoking is not permitted at the Health Sciences Centre and its entire property. Smokers there continue to ignore the ban, as it is common to see folks hanging out beyond the cancer clinic to get their dose of nicotine.
The centre’s smoking employees and visitors have also just moved across the street and established a smoking colony on a walking trail. Walkers out for lunchtime exercise have to deal with the group of smokers gathered in the woods and occupying the few park benches.
Across the street, Memorial University’s smoke-free campus initiative is also not very successful. The student newspaper, The Muse, recently featured an article about how the ban is regularly ignored and, without enforcement, will likely not make much difference.
The university’s campus enforcement is not responsible for stopping smokers, so the role is left to faculty, staff and students.
As smokers know that nothing will happen to them, those trying to enforce the university’s ban may well be wasting their breath on the smokers.
The St. John’s airport authority has the right solution for smokers. After years of having airport employees and visitors defy the smoking ban, the airport built a few smoking enclosures across the street from the entrances.
The airport’s approach should be adopted by the other public places trying to curb smoking.
Without enforcement, the current self-regulating bans are not eliminating the problem, so providing a space for smokers will at least protect the non-smokers.
Joan Butler is a lifelong resident
of Kelligrews, Conception Bay South.
She can be reached by email