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Wednesday, February 15, 2006 

Smoking Bans, Again

I wasn't shocked to see this opinion piece in the Trib today. April Kusper and Chris Hoff have decided to make your health decisions for you. Isn't that nice of them?
When the Milwaukee Common Council meets on March 2, we hope they vote to ban smoking in bars and restaurants. As Peer Health Educators on campus, it is not only our job but our passion to promote healthy living.
There should not be a legislated ban on smoking in bars and restaurants. If a private business wants to allow smoking, they should be able to do that. If a private business wants to ban smoking, they should be able to do that too. Then the consumer can choose where they go and spend their money. The businesses will thrive or fail based on the free market.

It must be quite a feeling to have a "passion to promote healthy living". Feel free to attempt to persuade anyone to quit smoking. Don't feel free to legislate your personal policy preferences for the rest of us. Some business owners would like to let their customers use tobacco, which is a legal product.
If the thought of not having to wash every article of clothing you wear into a bar or restaurant isn't enough to sway your opinion...
Personally, I wash my clothes after I wear them, regardless of where I've been. I'm not sure how many days they want to get out of their clothes...
Among adults, secondhand smoke exposure causes approximately 53,000 deaths a year, making it the third most preventable cause of death in the United States, according the American Medical Association.
That's just not true. 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. Anti-smoking groups took the number of deaths from second hand smoke in the EPA study (3,000) and inflated it to over 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." That original EPA study was also thrown out of a federal district court because the EPA cherry picked its data, violated its own procedures, and ignored data that deviated from their desired outcome.

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). There is no statistical significance between the two.

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. Isn't that interesting?
Additionally, if the health effects don't bother you, a study released in August 2005 by the Society of Actuaries found that secondhand smoke costs our country $10 billion a year in health care bills, lost wages and other costs.
Tobacco is a legal product. If people want to use it, then they can suffer the health consequences. What is the yearly cost attributed to alcohol? What about red meat? Should we ban those too, or should we let people choose what to put into their bodies?

This is also why I dislike socialized health care. Once the whole public is paying for your health care, they can justify making health and lifestyle choices for you. After all, they are paying your bills. They are going to make sure that you don't engage in any behavior that might raise the cost of your care. Not so oddly enough, the British House of Commons voted to ban smoking in pubs today. A common excuse for this is that their socialized health care system has to pay for the smokers' care.
According to the most recent CORE survey taken by a random sample of Marquette undergraduates, only 29.3 percent of students report smoking at least once in the past 30 days.
The next question is why do a majority of us (non-smokers) continually allow ourselves to be exposed to the secondhand smoke of a few?
This is a wonderful example of the tyranny of the majority, an idea that is prominent in Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America. As Thomas Jefferson stated, "A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine." This is exactly why the US is a republic, not a democracy. We have protections that keep 51% of us from stripping rights from all of us.
As reported in the Feb. 7 Marquette Tribune, many other cities, including New York, Boston, Chicago and Minneapolis, have recently passed laws restricting smoking in bars and restaurants. If other Midwestern cities are getting serious about secondhand smoke, shouldn't Milwaukee?
Oh, come on. That argument is so weak that your mom could defeat it. "If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?"
In 2005, Men's Health ranked the fittest cities in American and placed Minneapolis just ahead of Milwaukee.
Who gives a crap what Men's Health thinks? I bet we could be at the top of the list if we passed a law demanding that all citizens ate the same healthy meal and exercised for a certain number of hours a week. That infringes on people's freedom though. Tyranny with good intentions is still tyranny.
We're tired of smelling like smoke every time we go out and don't think anyone should work in a dangerous environment.
Are these two the speaking agents for the local service industry? I doubt it. I've met more than my share of bartenders and waitresses. A lot of them smoke, and they 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. Bars are an exception. It's a pretty cool job perk if you are a smoker.

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.

After reading this opinion piece, I was very tempted to write a response and submit it to the Tribune. I decided to make this post instead for two reasons: 1. It's much easier to copy and respond to specific statements, and 2. The Tribune sucks and I don't want my name attached to it.

For the record, I have never smoked a cigarette and would never try one.

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  • 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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