October 5, 2017
by Guillaume Périgois

“Even the smoker can’t stand the smoke: he systematically exhales it”

And other interesting comments from a tobaccologist during a debate on smoking bans in parks.


On May 31st, I was invited by RTL-TVI, the largest Belgian TV station, to debate smoking bans in parks in its midday Pour ou Contre show.

You can watch the debate (in French) here.

I was representing Forest EU, the campaign defending the interests of smokers in Europe, which was launched that very day. Coincidentally, May 31st happens to be World No Tobacco Day.

The other guest and my opponent was a Belgian tobaccologist.

He made a series of rather interesting comments that I would like to share below.

On the ‘perils’ of secondhand smoke in open, public places (parks, terraces, beaches)

Why do we have to protect people who don’t smoke when we’re next to a smoker in the open air? It’s not so much about physical health; it’s also about protecting the environment; it’s also about protecting the comfort of not receiving smoke on you. (from 01:17)

If it is not about toxicity to the health of non-smokers, it is about toxicity on multiple levels. It’s environmental toxicity. (from 04:41)

It is true that passive smoking today is no longer much of a problem because there are so many prohibitions. But there is still discomfort. (from 07:58)

Smokers who smoke outside are not always happy to smoke outside. That’s because they have a need. (…) He must (smoke) because he is in slavery, in a state of physical dependence. And he smokes where he still can. (from 09:53)

Indeed, that’s more because it’s now forbidden to smoke indoors.

On only allowing smoking at one’s home, not anywhere else

There are certain things you have to do at home, thus respecting the freedom of others. (from 03:51)

On why smokers don’t like the smoke

Even the smoker can’t stand the smoke. It bothers him. You know why it bothers him? It’s because he can’t stand it: he systematically exhales it. (from 07:07)

There was a moment of silence after this one.

On smoking prohibitions to help smokers quit smoking

It’s obvious: using the stick to help someone will never work. We have to reach out to him. (from 14:00)

I’m ending this list of quotes here.

One further note, though. At two different times during the debate, my opponent stressed the fact that smokers are a minority, only representing 25% of the Belgian population. Moments after the show ended, while talking informally to the journalist, I recall he said that since non-smokers represent the majority, a complete prohibition of smoking everywhere in the country would make democratic sense.

I remember thinking that tolerance has truly become an unliked, if not unknown concept.

Overall it was a respectful, balanced debate. My opponent was amiable and the journalist was professional.

I hope that smokers and tolerant non-smokers will be represented in the media in the future. Commenting on this issue shouldn’t be left to militants and people advocating extreme regulations.

I will certainly continue to be available for any comment.

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Note for editors

For more information, please contact Forest EU Director Guillaume Périgois on +32 4 78 98 07 43 or at gp@forestonline.eu.

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About Forest EU

Since 1979, Forest has been the leading voice in defending the rights of tobacco consumers and tolerant non-smokers. As an advocacy campaign, Forest EU informs consumers about issues that affect them in the European Union and engages with stakeholders so the views of informed adults are taken into account within the EU’s decision-making process. Forest EU doesn’t encourage smoking, accepts there are serious health risks associated with smoking tobacco and represents the consumer, not the tobacco industry. For more information, visit http://forestonline.eu/.

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