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Saturday, October 08, 2005 

Smoke 'em If You Got 'em

Smoking bans suck. They do. And I say this as a person who would never touch a cigarette. As a disclaimer, I smoked a cigar at a wedding once. It tasted like nothing, and I was mad that it killed important beer drinking time. Other than that, no smoking for me.

A while back, a friend in Madison commented on how he loved the smoking ban in bars. My response was that he was a dirty f'ing fascist and I will slap him about the head and neck the next time I see him (kidding, you're still okay Nick). If I lived in Madison, I would just drink at home. I would never support a bar that buckled under the pressure of the Madison elitist crowd. Fun fact... I start dry heaving as soon as I enter Dane County. It happens at any time of the day. I just can't stand the fact that Communists run my state capital, so I get physically ill. Call it a personality quirk.

Bars should be smoky. It's just a fact. If you are in a bar (drinking alcohol to scar your liver), you should not get all huffy over a little smoke. What, now you care how you harm yourself? "Oh, I'll drink a bunch a liquid that will kill me in sufficient amounts but keep that smoke away!" Give me a break. If you don't want smoke in the air, go to some sprout hut that serves honey dew smoothies and romaine sandwiches to emo kids. The rest of us have brain cells we want to kill.

Madison banned smoking in bars. That's shocking. Really. Madison is such a believer in the free market. If there was a big market for non-smoking bars, someone would open one. And that bar would be making money hand over fist. Then another would pop up. And another. And another. Look at that free market go! These bars that are so in demand would be packed on the weekends, and the smoker bars would be hanging on by the skin of their teeth. Right?

Wrong. There is no huge market for smoke free bars. Many of us want the freedom to destroy our bodies anyway we choose. And if a private business owner wants to let us damage our liver and lungs at the same time, I say more power to him. That business owner makes the choice, and the customers will endorse or oppose that choice with their dollars. But even if I am wrong and there is a huge, untapped market for smoke free bars, why only limit bars to being smoke free? Why not let the consumer choose through the free market system? I'm all about options. Give people the ability to choose an option. The bars with favorable settings will thrive, the others will fail. If you don't like second hand smoke at a certain place, don't go in. Pretty simple.

Let's look at this example. Imagine that you are at a private residence for a party. Everything is cool, people have decided on their own to enter and enjoy the festivities. There are alcoholic beverages and tobacco products for those of age. Then he shows up. One guy walks into the place and starts going off. He glares at the smokers and says, "Thanks for killing me a little, you guys!" and "I sure am happy that all these people are spewing poison at me..." Maybe he'd even say, "How dare you endanger my life with your smoke?! You should all be restrained by the law from doing this!" This guy goes around to every person at the party and gives them this business about smoke-free blah blah blah. If I was a (non-smoking) guest at this party, I'd have one question: "Who's the asshole?"

Wait. I know what's coming. You're saying "But Steve, c'mon. This is second hand smoke we are talking about. It is evil and dangerous and will kill me. If labor laws can demand a safe work environment, why can't they ban smoke in a work environment like a bar?" My response: _______. I just rolled my eyes at you. Let's talk about second hand smoke and health. The link between second hand smoke and tobacco caused harms is tenuous at best. The EPA did a study in 1993 that opened the doors to indoor smoking bans. It concluded that second hand smoke causes 3,000 deaths a year among non-smokers. Ooh, scary stuff.

But in 1998, a federal district court took a look at this study in Flue-Cured Tobacco Cooperative Stabilization Corporation v EPA. Then they took the EPA to task. Judge Osteen ripped the EPA for cherry picking its data, violating its own procedures, and ignoring data that deviated from their desired outcome. But no one cared, and smoking bans spread across the country. A New York court later disagreed and upheld the smoking bans in New York City C.L.A.S.H. v New York, but they said that the errors of the EPA test could be ignored. I think Judge Osteen got it right the first time, since he decided that a bad study should not be relied upon.

"But, Steve," you say yet again, "the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society, and the American Heart Association all say that second hand smoke causes cancer." Okay. What's their source? The 1993 EPA study that was thrown out of court. These groups also took the number of deaths from second hand smoke in the EPA study (3,000) and inflated it up to 50,000 a year. It's a number not based on hard data. It's based on projection rates from mortality figures, disregarding the actually reasons that a person died. You lived with a smoker? You get added to the total of "may have died from second hand smoke." Overstating an argument is a wonderful way to lose it.

The chances of dying of lung cancer if exposed to second hand smoke are 1:80,000 (12.5 out of one million people). The chances of dying of lung cancer if not exposed to second hand smoke are 1:100,000 (10 out of one million people). No statistical significance.

There was another study by the World Health Organization looking at different age groups and second hand smoke that claimed that "passive smoking does cause lung cancer" in their press release. But if you actually look at the report, it had a completely different conclusion. It said "Our results indicate no association between childhood exposure to ETS (environmental tobacco smoke) and lung cancer risk." And for adults, the increased risk was not statistically significant. Hmm.

Here is what smoking bans do. If you are in favor of that, knock yourself out. Shut down businesses. Get people laid off. Order a private business owner to do something by law that you would prefer. Stop people from having the option of going to a bar where they can smoke.

My favorite people are the ones who are "speaking for the bartenders and wait staff." Like you have a freaking mandate or something. I've met more than my share of bartenders and waitresses. A lot of them smoke. A lot of them like to work in a place that lets them smoke. If you haven't noticed, most places of business make you stand outside to smoke. Not bars. It's a pretty cool job perk if you are a smoker.

I'm never going to become a smoker. Ever. But I will not legislate that choice for every business owner in my city. I believe that that would be a tyrannical use of government power. If you don't like smoky bars, don't go into them. It's cheaper to buy beer and liquor at a store and drink in a private residence anyway. If there are enough people who say that they don't like smoking and would stop frequenting a business because of it, then that business would ban smoking voluntarily to survive.

I believe in the freedom to destroy myself in any way that I see fit. If someone wants their business to cater to my self destruction, I'm all for it. If a business wants to cater to your chosen method of self destruction, I'm all for it. If you find something irritating, that doesn't mean you should legislate against it. If someone says, "There ought to be a law...", there probably shouldn't.

But maybe you want the government interfering more in your life. Maybe you want a full time babysitter. Don't mind me, but I'll be over at the grown ups table, deciding if I want that shot of vodka, that pack of Marb Reds, or that greasy cheeseburger. Freedom is more important than your constant comfort.

Smoke froma handful of crushed leaves and some paper that is mixed with the air of a well-ventilated venue is dangerous to your health??
If any body believes that, then I have a bridge I would like to sell them.
If the public were better and truthfully informed about second-hand smoke, there would be a lot less smoking by-laws in this country.
It is not about health and it never was about health.
It is all about de-normalizing smoking.
Unfortunately, the hospitality sector is caught in the cross-fire.

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About me

  • I'm Steve
  • From Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
  • "There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." P.J. O'Rourke
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