Apparently, Singapore was an early adopter of designated smoking areas and non-smoking areas. However, this wasn’t driven by health concerns. Rather, it was driven by aesthetic concerns–primarily smell.
In a fascinating paper published recently in Urban Studies, Qian Hui Tan observes that smokers are “purveyors of sensory pollution” – creating a scent that, like all odors, can invade and take over. When that space is public, the impact can be immense, segregating and stratifying public spaces.
Tan visited some of these places and interviewed both smokers and non-smokers about how they think about the segregation of smokers to certain areas and the impact of smoking scents on people nearby.
Based on these conversations, Tan has compiled a collection of anecdotal evidence about smokers’ experiences being made to feel unclean or burdensome on those around them, and some of the efforts they take to reduce the olfactory impact their smoking on people they come into contact with. From smoking downwind to keeping more space from people after smoking, the smokers questioned said they had become sensitive to the way they are perceived after coming back from a smoke break.
And because of the invasive unavoidability of smell, the presence of cigarette smoke or its odor results in an inevitable “sensory appraisal” by others, according to Tan.
It doesn’t take a huge leap to imagine that this might be a non-significant factor in the relationship between smoking and relapse.