Back home from my epic trip to Europe, I was reading about some updated cruise line  policies on a topic which has the habit of firing people up considerably – smoking.

Although each operator has its own policy, and many have gradually reduced the places where smokers can and can’t indulge, some have taken the step recently to make updates to the rules.

Princess is one such operator, announcing recently that it will be banning smoking in all staterooms and balconies from all sailings departing after January 15 next year. And Carnival is another, moving swiftly to only allow smoking in certain public areas on its ships including dance clubs, designated areas of the casinos and casino bars, and in the jazz clubs. The new rules apply to 13 of its fleet from December 1. And as if to add salt to the wound, anyone breaking the rules will be charged a cleaning fee of $250.

So is this latest move draconic or simply common sense? And the answer to that question clearly depends on whether or not you are a smoker.

Spokespeople from the cruise lines involved have stated that reason behind the policy change isn’t just “having a go at smokers” but is in part based on the results of consumer studies, with smokers clearly now in the minority where passengers are concerned, and the majority desiring a smoke-free environment.

But also, on a more serious note, there have been a number of incidents in recent years threatening safety as a result of reckless smoking. One of the most memorable was a fire on board the Star Princess in the Caribbean back in 2006 which damaged 85 staterooms, and was consequently blamed on a lit cigarette flung off a balcony.

I am a non-smoker and always have been. I regard the practice as pointless, unattractive, expensive, bad for your health, anti-social, and at times, downright dangerous. Smoking affects not only the smoker but those around him – I have experienced this first-hand. And I also know it was hugely responsible for my father’s ill health in what should have been the prime of his retirement, and his early demise.

That said, I am also aware that nicotine is highly addictive and hard to quit, while for others its a social pastime, or something they genuinely do for enjoyment and leisure. So what to do? Should smokers have “rights” like non-smokers?

A number of committed smokers have posted responses on bulletin boards in the wake of the announcements, and the feeling among many is that they will change the cruise lines they cruise with. This is their right, but unfortunately for them it may be a short-lived solution; many other cruise lines are likely to follow suit under pressure, and will update their policies also in the coming months.

Ultimately most ships still have areas where people can indulge in their habit; the key gripe is that this will no longer include staterooms for many, meaning that the morning puff as they peruse the newspaper on waking will be a thing of the past.

Whether it is fair or unfair, you can argue over this entire subject until you are blue in the face, as my late father used to say. At the end of the day these facts are irrefutable; smoking is unhealthy, and those who wish to have a smoke-free environment should have one; smokers are now in the minority, and being democratic the majority rules; smoking has some serious consequences for safety at sea, something everyone should be aware of.

No doubt this topic will rumble on as it already has for a long time. My advice to smokers who cruise is maybe this is as good a time as any to give it up. Not only will you make the high seas safer, but you will doing something positive for your health. Happy and healthy cruising!