A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Monday, February 05, 2007

I Will Try Again

Though it generated a lively debate, my tirade on Gov. Doyle's proposed ban on smoking seems to have been misconstrued. Perhaps because it infuriated me so badly because I believe that Doyle's proposed ban has very little to do with public health and a LOT to do with PR and picking a target he knew there would be no backlash from.

So. I recommend you go read this guy's column on the proposed ban. I agree with everything he says, and he reiterates my points that may have gotten obscured by my "snarkiness".

Smoking should be banned in places where people HAVE to go. Courthouses, doctor's offices, daycare centers and the like. And it is. Smoking should not be banned in places like bars and restaurants unless we are going to make smoking illegal. As long as smoking is legal, banning it in places that people voluntarily go because some people don't like smoke, or are worried about their health, is discrimination. Pure and simple.

If you want to ban smoking in cars with children, I think it's a bad idea, but I can at least understand the rationale-- the children have no control over whether their idiot parents smoke in the car or not. But a bar? A restaurant? Please. Don't go to those places, then. Go to a smoke free bar, or sit in the non-smoking section-- which every restaurant MUST have.

I know I'm fighting a losing, rear-guard action here, and I'm sure mama h. and Corribus think I'm a total wingnut because I think that this kind of government overreach is horrible. But there it is-- I'd rather have Big Brother out of my life than have nice smelling bars. I'd rather not give my legislature any more control over individual liberties than they already have. And I find the way society treats smokers both distasteful and highly hypocritical.

And the fact that I think Jim Doyle is a hypocrite, a criminal, and a power-hungry preener who lies at the drop of a hat probably does add to my distaste for this proposal. But only a little. I'd dislike it no matter who was proposing it.


You don't seem to address the workers of those bars and restaurants. I think the Doyle camp would consider those places the workers have to go and not places they want to go. I'm against the ban, but I just thought you should at least address that issue.

Scott C.
I don't think you're a wingnut (well, not for this, anyway), and I *AM* against government overreach, but I *DO* disagree with this:

"But a bar? A restaurant? Please. Don't go to those places, then. Go to a smoke free bar, or sit in the non-smoking section-- which every restaurant MUST have."

Using that rationalize I could just as easily ask why there is a need for restrictions on guns, cocaine or landmines. Don't want to get blown into chunks of human hamburger? Well, just don't go near the recreational mine fields! Ok that was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but here's another one. "Why do we punish people for drinking and driving? If you don't like it, stay off the roads." The reason some things should be illegal in public places is because they interfere with a general person's ability to enjoy those places in a safe and healthy manner. When someone smokes in a public place, they make that impossible for a nonsmoker. I couldn't give a lick what a person does to themself - and for that reason I would be against making cigarettes illegal in all venues - but when it interferes with *MY* ability to enjoy a public place, then asking me just to find somewhere else to go is not really fair, is it?

I guess here is how I draw the line. I am fine with government making laws to protect you from other people. Where I begin to be uncomfortable is when the government makes laws to protect you from yourself. Every person has the right to harm themselves. You don't have the right to harm someone else. Smoking harms yourself - which is fine - but it also harms other people in public places. Hence it should be restricted in public places. Ditto with guns and landmines. Eating fattening foods, smoking in your own home, not getting exercise. These are all bad but their impact on other people is minimal, and so the government should never step in and try to restrict these activities.

As long as I'm allowed to kill myself, then I'm happy.
When an individual fills out an application for employment at a bar or restaurant, that person should be aware of whether or not the establishment permits smoking. If the potential employee needs or desires a smoke free atmosphere, then the individual should only apply at smoke-free bars and restaurants (although I'm not personally aware of any smoke-free bars). Another alternative would be for the individual to find a similar service job in the retail field.

My wife has worked in food service since she was eighteen. She smokes, and so do 80% to 90% of the people that she has ever worked with in the bar and restaurant industry. That's an issue with the "think about the workers" argument that is very seldom addressed; one doesn't take into account how many of those individuals who work in the bars and restaurants are smokers to begin with.

Also, I don't agree with the analogy that Corribus was making with drunk-driving. There are laws against drunk driving because, if an individual gets behind the wheel while intoxicated, that individual can endanger the safety of others on or near the public roadways. The impaired driver poses that risk to the general public in a manner that is much more immediate and has a much greater potential to cause severe damage or death than the threat posed to members of the general public who choose to be in an atmosphere where smoking is permitted.

In contrast, a bar or restaurant that permits smoking may be allowing patrons to take part in an activity that has the potential to cause health problems over the course of time, but the fact that smoking is permitted at a private business can almost always be discerned by a patron before that individual chooses to patronize or remain within the confines of the establishment.

You could easily hear about someone's friend or family member, who had been perfectly healthy up to the time of a DUI incident, being killed or seriously injured just moments after driving away. It is quite unlikely, however, that someone who is perfectly healthy would die or develop a chronic health condition the day after that person spent an evening in a smoke-filled bar.

While the government regulates alcohol, is isn't banned because, for the most part, alcohol use will only affect the one using the product and, when used in moderation, alcohol may actually be beneficial to an individual's overall health. It is only when the product is abused, or when an individual performs certain actions while intoxicated, that a danger may be presented to the individual and those around him.

One of the main arguments against smoking, on the other hand, is that tobacco products are a hazard to the user and bystanders when the products are used as directed. Granted, the duration and extent of the exposure to tobacco products helps to determine the potential health-risks one could face, but the product itself presents a potential hazard when used properly.

If the state wants to protect people from themselves, then ban smoking in the few remaining places open to the public that still permit the activity. However, if the goal of the state is truly to prevent lives from being cut short by tobacco use, and to reduce the billions in health-care costs generated by tobacco use, then ban the product altogether.

The limited additional ban would ensure that the state would continue to make money off of a product that would continue to harm those who use it and who are exposed to it, surely cutting some of those lives short and continuing to generate related health-care expenses for the state. A complete ban, while removing a revenue stream for the state, would have the greatest impact on the public health, safety, and welfare; and isn't that the reason that the state is giving for considering a ban in the first place?
oh my lord... USMC has to get out of the house more... I just glanced over his response (and I assume it is a HE) and he can't seem to respond to anything in under five paragraphs.

There is no need for the ban as it is phrased. See all of Mojo's reasoning, and mine, on this-- if public health is the issue, let's ban smoking. If it isn't, let's ban smoking in public places people have no choice about visiting (already done) and let the market decide what happens in PRIVATE businesses.

Waitstaff and bartenders know that their work environment may include second-hand smoke. They can choose to work there or not.

And there are smoke-free bars and restaurants all over the place (though far fewer bars, I will admit) because the market is now dictating that being smoke-free is an actual draw for the business. Does it take a little extra exploration on the Web to find them? Yeah, like two minutes worth. If you can't be bothered to take that amount of time, I have little sympathy for you.

The "The reason some things should be illegal in public places is because they interfere with a general person's ability to enjoy those places in a safe and healthy manner" argument strikes me as rather over-simplified. Music at some clubs is WAY too loud and probably causes long-term hearing damage. Should government ban loud music, or should somebody who d/n like the loud music find a club without loud music?

And if you want to talk fairness, how exactly is it fair that somebody engaging in a legal activity, with materials available to anyone and everyone for a small amount of money, can't engage in that activity except in certain, very tightly delineated places? Why is a smoker's ability to enjoy a bar less important than yours, Corribus? If a smoker goes to a non-smoking club, he would be a jackass if he or she made a big deal out of the fact that he or she can't smoke there. But somehow if a non-smoker goes to a place where it is an almost certainty smoking will be occuring, it is perfectly acceptable for him or her to bitch and moan and complain about how their "rights" are being trampled. Indeed, most of the smokers will probably feel bad that their smoke is bugging the non-smoker even though their actions are legal, fully to be expected, and the non-smoker does not have to be there.

IF it is a public health issue, than ban it all together. If it isn't, then realize that smokers have rights too, and your enjoyment is no more important than a smokers.

But Mojo is right-- the government won't ban cigarettes because they provide a HUGE revenue stream. And they are an easy punching bag, because smokers are second-class citizens.
I know that this post is nearly a year old by now, Nick, but I had to pass on the latest that I've seen on cigarette scare tactics: Third-Hand Smoke.

The article is here, and I posted on it here.

Parents who smoke often open a window or turn on a fan to clear the air of second-hand smoke, but experts now have identified another smoking-related threat to children's health that isn't as easy to get rid of: third-hand smoke.

That's the term being used to describe the invisible yet toxic brew of gases and particles clinging to smokers' hair and clothing, not to mention cushions and carpeting, that lingers long after smoke has cleared from a room. The residue includes heavy metals, carcinogens and even radioactive materials that young children can get on their hands and ingest, especially if they're crawling or playing on the floor.

Doctors from MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston coined the term "third-hand smoke" to describe these chemicals in a new study that focused on the risks they pose to infants and children. The study was published in this month's issue of the journal Pediatrics.

"Everyone knows that second-hand smoke is bad, but they don't know about this," said Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

"When their kids are out of the house, they might smoke. Or they smoke in the car. Or they strap the kid in the car seat in the back and crack the window and smoke, and they think it's okay because the second-hand smoke isn't getting to their kids," Winickoff continued. "We needed a term to describe these tobacco toxins that aren't visible."

Third-hand smoke is what one smells when a smoker gets in an elevator after going outside for a cigarette, he said, or in a hotel room where people were smoking. "Your nose isn't lying," he said. "The stuff is so toxic that your brain is telling you: 'Get away.'"

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