If I had the time, intelligence and patience I’d write a paper on this idea that struck me, alone in the lift, on my way from office to ground floor so I could “take the air” (and a little nicotine).
To make these trips productive, I generally have some calls saved up and I use smoking breaks to make them, thus limiting downtime. Most other smokers don’t do that, or can’t, but that’s by-the-by, for the purposes of ecology, wasted working time is perhaps immaterial.
What is definitely not immaterial is the energy used by these smokers in their migration from the great plains to the water holes. The fundamental problem here is that smoking bans do not stop people smoking, they just force the smokers to travel from workstation to smoking area, to leave the pub/restaurant and come back again or to stop the car.
Looking at my current office for example, there are three banks of lifts in the building and my careful calculations suggest that one lift per bank is in constant use transporting smokers. Allow for the fact that the smokers lift sometimes carries other passengers and we easily say that 0.5 of a lift per bank is used for smokers. That’s 1.5 lifts for the whole building for say 8 hours a day 5 days a week. I have no idea how much electricity that is, but it is a whole lot more than zero. Add to this the incidental energy use through having to deal with access control systems, electric doors and so on and you’re starting to build quite a demand for energy just to let people smoke in the only places they are allowed to.
Any HVAC engineer will tell you that the worst thing for a climate controlled space is opening and closing of doors, windows. So, all those people leaving restaurants, offices…any buildings, in order to have a smoke, are having an immediate impact on the environment within. The machinery has to work harder to either cool or heat the space. That means more energy used.
People are prevented from smoking in cars by laws, rental company regulations, whatever. They have no alternative but to pull over if they want to smoke. To do this they are either leaving their car running, or stopping and starting the car. Either way, this is using more fuel than an uninterrupted trip would have used.
If you multiply all the above factors by all the office buildings, cars, restaurants that are affected across the globe, my guess is that the various bans have increased the “smokers carbon footprint” by a massive amount. And yet nobody seems to care. When it comes to dealing with evil smokers, we’re not prepared to even consider the impact on the environment?
How do we make smoking more sustainable? (now there’s a strange sentence!)
For the record, I’m cool with smoking bans. We even have one at home but aside from a tiny impact on the heating thermostat it is carbon-neutral.