Masks Required and No Smoking– What’s the Difference?

No smoking sign

Good News, the CDC (Center for Disease Control)  wants everyone to know that a booster shot will provide enough protection to prevent hospital visits, in the event someone contracts the latest version of the Coronavirus—Omicron.

Bad News, the virus continues to spread by people who may be infected but have no symptoms.

One way to curtail the virus from being transmitted is for everyone to wear masks indoors in public places. But many U.S. citizens consider enacting such mandates to be government overreach.

Photo by lehandross on Pexels.com

This got me to thinking about the no smoking laws prevalent in Maryland. Smoking is forbidden in the workplace, as well as in bars, restaurants, and gambling casinos.

Commencing in the 1970’s the science proving the health dangers of smoking was believed. The science showed that not only did cigarette smoking cause lung disease, second hand smoke from cigarettes also made people sick.

According to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation’s website,, as of October 2021, a total of 28 states, along with Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia, have state-wide laws in effect that require 100% smoke free workplaces and/or restaurants and/or bars. These laws, along with local laws in other states, protect 62.3% of the U.S. population.

Nationally, the positive test rate for Covid-19 is approximately 24 percent. This means almost one quarter of the individuals who are experiencing symptoms or know they’ve been exposed to the Coronavirus will likely test positive for the virus. If not quarantined they will spread it to others.

Public mask wearing is most effective at reducing spread of the virus when compliance is high.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, United States of AMerica

In Anne Arundel County Maryland, where I live, mask mandates are in effect by order of our health officer. The mask mandate, however was not supported by our county council. The following quote from Councilperson Nathan Volke sums up their reasoning, “Extensive voluntary mask wearing, gives me great trust in our County residents to make the best health decisions for themselves, their families, and our community.”

 

It’s a nice argument to say we don’t need these particular laws because we can trust the American people to do the right thing, but when I observe people’s behavior first hand they don’t always behave with consideration. If you (a nonsmoker) are dining outside at a sidewalk café and someone is standing nearby smoking, you’re in a quandary: should you ask them to move or should you try to switch tables? Maybe they’re so addicted to nicotine, anxious to get their fix they are not thinking about who might inadvertently inhale their smoke.  

wearing masks
Mask wearing was one of the first lines of defense when the coronavirus arrived in the USA.

The same goes for wearing a mask during the pandemic. The person rushing into the store to buy groceries might be in a rush and forgot their mask, maybe it causes their glasses to fog, maybe they don’t believe in science and think the coronavirus is a hoax—but the reasons don’t matter. The affect is the same, they are endangering the health of others.

To those who say that the government doesn’t have the right to intervene when the public health is at risk, I ask them to look at smoking laws. Restrictions on smoking has come to be accepted in many parts of the country because it is acknowledged that second hand smoke impacts the health of others.  It is true that a number of states, including Alaska, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Wyoming and Kentucky have no statewide smoking ban, but within those states individual jurisdictions have various laws in place.

Public safety versus individual freedom, where do we draw the line? I would rather stand on the side of protecting the vulnerable, those who might get sick and possibly die. This is a virus that does not just attack the elderly, or someone else you’ve never met. Children, young adults and middle age adults have died from the virus. The coronavirus still poses a grave threat. But with some simple measures—masking, up-to-date vaccinations, frequent handwashing, social distancing—we can significantly reduce its spread.

            Elected leaders do your job. Look out for all Americans, particularly those most exposed to the virus, our frontline workers. It’s a matter of life and death.

Follow me on twitter at SN Maril.

Published by Nadja Maril

Nadja Maril is a communications professional who has over 10 years experience as a magazine editor. A writer and journalist, Maril is the author of several books including: "American Lighting 1840-1940", "Antique Lamp Buyer's Guide", "Me, Molly Midnight; the Artist's Cat", and "Runaway, Molly Midnight; the Artist's Cat". Her short stories and essays have been published in several small online journals including Lunch Ticket, Change Seven, Scarlet Leaf Review and Defunkt Magazine. She has an MFA in creative writing from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. Former Editor-in-Chief of What's Up ? Publishing, former Editor of Chesapeake Taste Magazine a regional lifestyle magazine based in Annapolis, and former Lighting Editor of Victorian Homes Magazine, Maril has written hundreds of newspaper and magazines articles on a variety of subjects..

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