The innumerable health risks of smoking, particularly in terms of pulmonary and cardiovascular health, have been well researched and documented. The types and extents of the harmful effects of smoking vary widely depending on the type of tobacco one smokes, how much one smokes a day, the extent to which one inhales the smoke, and the tar content of the cigarettes. The general consensus is that smoking is responsible for an average of about 30 percent of cancer-related deaths. To human cells, secondhand smoke can be just as damaging as direct exposure from smoking. Recently, an increasing number of studies have been reporting the harmful effects of even third-hand smoke, as the toxic substances in tobacco smoke can still spread via the air, furniture, and walls to affect pregnant women and children, even though they may have avoided secondhand smoke. Numerous local governments worldwide have thus embarked on campaigns to ban smoking in public spaces.
|Health Risks of secondhand smoke|
(Korea Smoke-Free Campaign Association)
|Effects of secondhand smoke on non-smokers|
(Korea Smoke-Free Campaign Association)
Public spaces where large crowds gather should be safe and pleasant for everyone. Seizing upon this principle, the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) has set out to take action on this issue, i.e., by banning smoking in all public areas across the city.
Seoul continues to increase the number of smoke-free areas citywide and advertise this public campaign in an effort to garner and strengthen public consensus on the issue. Indoor areas of public and commercial buildings, bus stops, and even the spaces outside subway station exits are now smoke-free areas. In addition, the city has designated “strict smoke-free zones” around schools to protect children and youth against the harmful effects of smoking.
|Smoke-Free Area sign||Smoke-Free Areas around subway stations|
Seoul has been banning smoking inside public buildings as well as public outdoor areas since 2013. As of July 2016, 225,829 public indoor spaces and 16,984 public outdoor spaces across Seoul have been declared smoke-free areas. All of the city’s civil servants, smoking wardens, and smoking cessation instructors have been working hard to carry out and advertise the campaign.
In an effort to protect the public from the health risks of concentrated secondhand smoke in the spaces surrounding subway station exits, the city declared the area within a 10-meter radius of every subway station exit as a smoke-free area as of May 1, 2016. Seoul, along with the 25 self-governing boroughs, has been strictly enforcing the new law and working to raise public awareness of the harmful effects of smoking in public.
A joint campaign co-organized by the SMG, borough offices, and nongovernmental organizations was launched at the Seoul Train Station Plaza and other major public venues throughout the city in order to enforce the new smoke-free area law. Over 40 people, including the entire staff of Seoul’s Health Promotion Division, smoke-free area patrol officers, and members of the Zero-Smoke Network, engaged the public during the campaign around Seoul Station and other major subway stations across the city. The 25 borough offices also launched their own public campaigns simultaneously, focusing on raising awareness of the issue in areas where secondhand smoke complaints are common, such as Changdong Station, Eungam Station, Nowon Station, and Janghanpyeong Station.
|Eliminating smoking within a 10-meter radius of subway station exits||Smoke-Free Area Campaign|
Designated civil servants participate in the campaign on the first day of every month, focusing on raising public awareness of the campaign and the issue of secondhand smoke around subway stations throughout Seoul. The 25 borough offices have also assembled their own taskforces to actively curb smoking in areas within a 10-meter radius of subway station exits in their respective jurisdictions, resulting in a total of 1,662 smokers being caught in the act in the month of September 2016 alone.
The city government has assisted the borough-level campaign by dispatching 1,472 civil servants and volunteers, including 19 smoking wardens, to join these taskforces. In the early days of the campaign, the police responded promptly and decisively to every complaint of secondhand smoke nearby subway stations in the early days of the campaign. This was met with strong resistance in some cases, but smoking has gradually been disappearing from these areas and other public spaces as a result.
|Participants of the public debate||Group discussion at the public debate|
Seoul’s efforts to eradicate secondhand smoke from the city also included organizing a public debate in 2016. The 130 or so citizens who participated in the debate were asked whether it is necessary to establish smoking zones within smoke-free areas. Of the participants, 4.2 out of 5 answered affirmatively. The group included 65 non-smokers, former smokers, and current smokers, as well as policy experts and NGO activists.
The participants were unanimous in their agreement that creating smoking zones within smoke-free areas was crucial to minimizing the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. They strongly believed that smokers would continue smoking in smoke-free areas if they were provided no other spaces in which to smoke.
Some of the participants also suggested that the city invest the money gained through the KRW 100,000 fines levied on those smoking illegally in smoke-free areas in improving the conditions of smoking zones, as smokers will understandably avoid smoking in dirty, unventilated smoking zones in favor of more convenient and comfortable smoke-free areas. Some thus proposed that even outdoor smoking zones should be equipped with air purification systems so that smokers and non-smokers alike would not have to inhale secondhand smoke. As smokers also tend to reach for a cigarette after a meal or a drink, some argued that outdoor smoking zones should be established outside cafés, restaurants, and bars as a matter of law.
Irrespective of their smoking history, the participants also unanimously agreed that such smoking zones or booths should not be installed near schools, as exposure to the sight of smokers is known to have a negative influence on youths.
|Seoul’s Smoke-Free Campaign on Facebook||Smoking Regulation Policy Guide|
The SMG has also created a Facebook account (https://www.facebook.com/2015smokefree) dedicated to its smoke-free campaign so as to better promote the city’s smoking regulation policy and projects and encourage greater civic participation in the effort. Citizens may visit the Facebook page to learn about the city’s no-smoking policy as well as similar campaigns and trends both inside and outside of Korea. They can also use this page to publically share their own suggestions regarding the policy.
The “Smoking Regulation Policy Guide,” published bi-monthly, provides detailed information on smoking-related policies and developments in Korea and countries overseas. Anyone may subscribe to the guide online by sending an email to email@example.com.