The Contentious Issue of Smoking versus Non-Smoking
Happy Trails is an adult residential community (neither a hospital nor a nursing home). As in any community, residents need to accommodate mutually exclusive needs in a fair manner. Smokers living at the Happy Trails Retirement and Assisted Care Community insist they have the right to light up when and where they please in their home, which they equate with the standards accepted in the general community. Non-smokers, however, demand their right to live in a healthy, smoke free environment. One smoking resident noted that she, like many other residents, purchased her unit in this particular community in part because it promised "all the comforts of home." A facility that forbids smoking in all areas, she contends, does not offer all the comforts of home. Conversely, one non-smoking resident stated that he, like many other residents, purchased his unit in part because this particular community was affiliated with a health care system, and promised a "healthy environment." “A smoke-filled environment is not healthy”, he says.
Years ago when some residents purchased their units, they were free to smoke in the dining room, the library, the game room, the lobby, and the hallways. Over time, with increased awareness of the danger of second hand smoke imposed on others (especially the elderly who are at greater risk for respiratory disease), more restrictions were imposed. Smoking is now limited to inside the residents' private units and in many of the out doors areas on the Happy Trails property. However, non-smokers want to breathe fresh air in the common outdoor garden areas as well, and are demanding further restrictions be imposed to protect their health and safety.
During a community meeting, residents presented many arguments, and asserted many claims, on both sides of the issue, including the following:
- Additional costs of insurance (cigarettes are the number one cause of fire deaths in Australia) and maintenance (more frequent cleaning of carpets, draperies, and furniture) are borne by all residents, smokers and non-smokers alike, which is unfair to non-smokers.
- Some residents, non-smokers as well as smokers, engage in behaviour that others find offensive, such as speaking loudly and using profanity. If smokers are restricted then shouldn't people who engage in the above kinds of behaviours be restricted as well?
- Smoking is not a choice, but an addiction.
- Smoking is a chosen behaviour. People can choose to start and choose to quit. - Many residents who are adamant about their right to live in a healthy environment and who are critical of those who choose to smoke, nonetheless eat unhealthy diets, do not exercise, and are overweight -- all choices. Shouldn't they be similarly restricted?
- Although a monthly surcharge is assessed upon those who smoke in their units, several residents don't pay this, saying they only smoke outside. Yet they "cheat" and smoke in their units, especially in inclement weather.
- Non-smokers are free to move to other outdoor places where the air is not "offensive." After all, smokers have had to remove themselves entirely from some areas.
- Happy Trails does not have the resources to support separate smoking and non-smoking public areas.
Analyse situation with regards to ethical rights, identifying all relevant case facts (case facts are facts which precede the ethical dilemma)>
Establish who is the decision maker, ethical dilemma and the punishments.
Determine applicable rights and whether they collide.
Consult hierarchy of rights to determine which right is more basic.
Produce a recommendation for decision maker and state which dilemma and solutions to avoid punishment for recommended course of action