Monday, March 26, 2012

Thoughts On: The Smoking Ban

For some strange reason, my second hand smoke episode of bullshit has gotten an unusually high amount of traffic in the past few days, bringing with it a tirade of comments. Because of this I thought I’d write a post about my thoughts on the subject, since the comments section is getting quite heated.

First of all, it never ceases to amaze me how socially acceptable it is to vilify smokers in the US. I remember an excellent parody done by South Park to this effect as well, and it is an attitude that I found reflected in the comments section. The only bad thing about tobacco is that it doesn’t kill smokers fast enough! We should be allowed to publicly stone smokers in the streets! Etc. etc. I remember once when in the United States taking a walk with a girl I had only recently met, having a pleasant conversation when her attention was diverted to a man smoking a cigarette. She promptly snatched it from him, stomped the living daylights out of it, and went on to give him a lecture on how he was killing himself with his cancer sticks and my god there were children around!! I was flabbergasted to the point of being utterly speechless. The man was luckily at the end of his smoke, so e simply rolled his eyes, called her a lunatic and walked off. She then turned around to me, pleasant as ever, and explained that she hated smoking because her grandfather died of lung cancer, thereby resuming our conversation. When recounting this bizarre episode to my other American friends they informed me that, while her behaviour might be considered a little overzealous, it was certainly nothing to call the men in white coats over. I often wonder how they would have reacted if, instead, we had passed by a fast food restaurant whereby spotting an obese person eating a bacon cheeseburger I ran over, snatched it from his grasp, threw it in the garbage and yelled how could he be killing himself my god doesn’t he know how bad trans fats are and there are children around what if they see him and think being fat is OK??!! My guess is, not very well.

Anyway, bringing the topic back round to the smoking ban. The majority of the new commenters seem to be creating this false dichotomy, whereby the only two options are either A. have a smoking ban or B. have every single public venue clouded by smoke. While I remember well what it was like to grow up without the smoking ban and it was indeed very similar, closer to the time when the ban came into effect there were plenty of places that had banned smoking or at least created smoking and non-smoking sections. Thinking the smoking ban is silly is not about thinking that smokers should be allowed to smoke everywhere, its about thinking that private businesses should be allowed to decide for themselves what to allow.

When the smoking ban was coming into effect, I was still a smoker, but I still hated the smell of smoke in the air. I was all for having mandatory smoking and non-smoking sections, if you were going to allow smoking in your business at all. I remember being in the Gatwick airport and passing by the smoking area at least 12 times before finally spotting it, despite it being a little open-top cubicle in the middle of the grounds, and yet I couldn’t smell any smoke even when I was right in front of it. It had these powerful fans that just sucked the smoke right out of the air, and I remember thinking why can’t we have more of these around? Why, if we must have a law, have it say that smoking areas have to be adequately ventilated?

Instead, we had an outright ban, no exceptions. In Rome and in London there are hookah bars that are quite popular, where you go to smoke big hookahs filled with flavoured tobacco. However, since the ban, if you want to smoke a cigarette in one of these places you have to take it outside, because that is the law. Does that not sound absurd to anyone? Would any of you who hate smoke so much even go to one of those places?

I am not saying that I want to go back to a time where smoke was everywhere. I also am not saying that being against the smoking ban means being for being allowed to smoke in any indoor place there is. All I am saying is, why can’t I open a smoking bar where people hang out, drink and smoke exotic cigarettes and cigars if that is what I want? Why can’t I designate a very well ventilated back room to my pub so that my customers don’t have to go out and smoke in the cold or rain, encouraging them to stick around and consume more? Is it really that hard to reduce second hand smoke without hurting businesses?

Leaving your visceral smoke-hatred at home, what are your thoughts on the subject? Do you think there are better ways to get to what the smoking ban was trying to do, or are you really for the smoking ban because what you really want to do is ban cigarettes?


  1. "All I am saying is, why can’t I open a smoking bar where people hang out, drink and smoke exotic cigarettes and cigars if that is what I want?"

    And who would you employ there? Smokers only? What about equal opportunity?

    1. Well, there are many private businesses that are allowed to discriminate, example of certain hospitals making employees take a nicotine test and being fired if they smoke, or certain gyms that include in their contracts a provision allowing them to fire staff if they get too fat, but I think that is besides the point. If I were the owner of such a place, I would not be discriminating against a non-smoking employee, (and by my hypothetical law the place would have to be adequately ventilated anyway) they can work there if they want. They might discriminate against MY workplace and not want to apply, but that's up to them. I would discriminate against wanting to work in the back of a McDonalds cause I see what all that smoking grease does to their employees' skin, but that doesn't mean I think I don't have "equal opportunity" to work there.

    2. Come to your senses, Mr Holek! The is no such thing as "equal opportunity".

  2. Ahem, as an employer (), you are responsible for providing a safe environment for your employees to work in.
    So, you say, work here and potentially get sick, or don't work here and enjoy all the perks of unemployment.. Hardly a fair choice, I think.
    It is not acceptable for an employer to say: "Here we have some Vinyl Chloride Monomer dispersed in the air and we provide no protection. It is up to you to decide if you want to work here or not." or "Here we experiment with viruses without all the usual barriers and we employ only people willing to die." While there are people who wouldn't care about consequences, and would accept such jobs, they shouldn't be allowed to do that or, better, shouldn't be offered such a choice.
    I don't know about McDonald's, but if they are not providing proper protection for their workforce, they are breaking the law.
    What you might argue is that you might open a venue of some sort by yourself and have no workers, but still that would mean discriminating customers, offering them the same choice as above. On the other hand, you have smokers who can enter where ever they want, as long as they are not smoking right then and there. And while I do have friends who would argue that smoking IS necessary for their lives, it is nothing but a habit, addiction, personal choice or whim.. If you allow it in a public space, I might contest I want to masturbate by right. And I assure you less harm would come to other people.

    I need to state I have no agenda of my own here. I am a non(nicotine :)) smoker, but I don't support cigarette ban (which you implied might be at the bottom of the whole smoking ban), no more than I support pot being illegal.
    However, you've noticed a good (well, universal at least) health care around Europe, which is based on everybody participating, and everybody being cared for as per individual need.
    That doesn't look sustainable any more, if it ever did. And we all see the USA health care, which is actually profit-based, and that doesn't make much more sense either.

    So why should you pay for a smoker, or an overweight person (hear hear) or a drug addict, or anyone inflicting higher health risks on themselves out of their own accord? If you want to smoke, or stuff yourself with triple amount of calories needed, well, good, but you'll have to support that with nice hefty contribution to health care system which will in turn take care of you when you develop at least one of infinite number of diseases indicated by your [vice?].

    I didn't mention the ventilation stuff as it seems to me that might be to elaborate: how much ventilation you'd have to install to keep the shit at zero level in every cubic meter (or foot) of space? Isn't it easier to get out?

    1. The ventilation is actually not as hard as it sounds, and as I had said before I agree that it would need to be addressed. Working in an adequately ventilated workplace would bring the same risks to the employee's lungs as working in a city. It is all relative and some of your comparisons are not valid. Infective viruses are dangerous not only to the employee that might get infected but to the millions of people that person could transmit the virus to, you cant say that's the same thing as "come work in this ventilated bar where you might get the occasional whiff of cigarette smoke".

      As for the why should I pay for you argument, I'm afraid it is a slippery slope that you really cant justify. Why should I pay to save the life of a teenager who tries to commit suicide? They did it to themselves, tough shit. Why should I pay for a promiscuous woman's sexual health care? She put herself at higher risk, let her rot. Where do you draw the line exactly? What arbitrary risk vs cost threshold do you impose? Also, none of this is mentioning how smokers pay way, WAY more taxes than non smokers do. You could thus make the argument that they contribute more to the health care system and thus are just as deserving of care as someone who contributed less but put themselves at less risk.

      I don't know why you don't think that universal health care is sustainable. We've been hit pretty hard with the economic debacle, but our health care system is going nowhere. There is also a private profit-based one in place too, so its not like people who can afford it dont have that option, and the mere presence of the universal one makes sure that the private one doesnt go batshit crazy with their prices (as Ive seen in the US), so I dont see an immediate problem in that regard.

    2. Also the discrimination against customers, that is not something that is the smoking ban protects against and not something that has ever been illegal. You are allowed to have male-only clubs and woman-only gyms. You're allowed to have bars where you have to order something if you want to sit there (uhoh, alcohol, very dangerous) and you're allowed to have a restaurant that doesn't have any healthy, grease-free options on the menu. Also hookah bars do exist, they are legal, and they dont have to be adequately ventilated by law. It's not discrimination to not want to be a customer in a certain place because you dont want to be unhealthy.

      Once education finishes its job and fewer and fewer people want to be in a place where smoking takes place then economic decisions will kick in and the places I have described will cease to exist. However, until then, I don't agree that the smoking ban was well thought out and because of this it hurt a lot of business owners

    3. "Where do you draw the line exactly?" is something that applies both to "a whiff of smoke" and "virus vs. something with less severe consequences": p.p.m. threshold for exposure to cigarette smoke has yet to be determined (correct me if I am wrong); I wonder where do YOU draw the line between acceptable/unacceptable number of deaths? 1 is OK? Well, not in my book. It should be zero tolerance, at least where we do have a choice.

      And your comparisons on why should we pay might be a bit dodgy. Suicide attempt does not mean putting oneself at risk, really - it means that person is already ill. And often that's not by choice, be it genetics or society or a terrible girlfriend.. It is something we are all exposed to, I guess. Promiscuous women? If we are not talking mental condition, you shouldn't pay for her. Mind you, I am not saying it would be easy to describe every scenario available - like how would you determine what is promiscuity, how to "catch" it etc. All I am proposing is to get in place similar criteria that applies with life insurance policy. Admittedly, accuracy of such predictions are less than impressive, but worth our while. Universal health care system is a great thing, so why not give it a better chance to survive.
      Which leads me to taxes - OK, there are countries that impose taxes (on alcohol and tobacco, I believe), and part of that goes to health care. Not enough. Overweight people put even more strain on the system, for example. Something should be done. And having private insurance is beneficial only for the rich, and that's not right either. Physicians will go for money any day of the week, leaving the public health care that much poorer. And not to mention pharmaceutical companies.

    4. Discrimination against customers is not the point I am too happy to defend, but at least there are flaws in your arguments.
      The gender thing is especially moot (generally) - why do we have female and male changing rooms? Is it discrimination or protection of privacy?
      Who said you have to order alcohol, or even if you do, you don't have to overdo it. And isn't a glass of wine a day recommended by cardiologists?
      You show me the menu from a restaurant that doesn't have one thing healthy (or at least not unhealthy) to offer, I'll admit you're right.
      Don't know about hookah (hooker? - please bear in mind I'm not a native speaker) bars, unfortunately..

      "It's not discrimination to not want to be a customer in a certain place because you dont want to be unhealthy."
      Well, it sure is discrimination to not be able to be a customer in a certain PUBLIC place because someone is endangering your health.
      Your idea of having bars for smokers might work (I'll forget about employment for this one) in a place where there are numerous options, like NYC, or wherever. What about places with only a couple of restaurants, or bars and they all opt for smoking? And remember, smokers are not forbidden from entering any public place, as long as they are not smoking there. Which is something they DON'T HAVE to do.

    5. Right, I never advocated for smoking in public places, I was referring to the smoking ban that applies to private businesses.

      A hookah is a large tabletop pipe thing ( which you use to smoke flavored tobacco. Since it is not in a form of a cigarette you are allowed to have an indoors, non-ventilated hookah bar.

      As for the restaurant example, ever heart of the Heart Attack Grill? (yup, thats its actual name

      Fourth there are 2 problems: first of all I mentioned that restaurants and bars would have to have both smoking and non-smoking sections, unless it is a bar dedicated entirely to smoking. And if there was a small town where there was not a single bar, or restaurant, or movie theater, and the only thing to do at night was to go out to a smoking club? Hello economic savy, coming in to fix the problem, someone could open up a place that caters to all those people that dont want to go there and they will give that place their business because it is something that is lacking in their community. Problem solved. Notice the same thing is happening to restaurants that cater to vegetarians, or coeliacs, or vegans, no one HAS to eat meat or eggs or pasta when they go to a restaurant, but that doesnt mean they shouldnt be allowed to to cater to coeliacs or people with PKU, but economic savvy has saved the day and in order to attract more customers there are now many restaurants that offer portions of the menu that cater to these people.

      Lastly no, of course a gender-based changing room is a privacy issue, but the fact that women are not allowed to golf at the Augusta National country club, for example, has nothing to do with privacy

    6. Oh and sorry I didnt see your first comment there. You want all workplaces to have zero chance of death or bodily harm? Hm so no more soldiers, especially female soldiers (1 in 3 US female soldiers are raped in the military according to new study), no more miners or oil rig workers, no more racecar drivers, rugby players, domestic violence crisis center workers, secret service officers, policemen, firemen, you get the idea. All of these people know what the risk is when they take the job, and none of these jobs are the only ones out there thereby forcing the population to pick a risky work environment. I guarantee you that a ventilated smoking bar is going to be far less risky to you than racing a car or going to afghanistan

    7. "Right, I never advocated for smoking in public places, I was referring to the smoking ban that applies to private businesses."
      So, by consequence, what you call private business might prefer having customers of certain color or religion?

      "ever heart of the Heart Attack Grill?"
      No, you have me a bit cornered here, but I might wriggle out of it still :).
      If you eat 8000 kcal(Wiki) of anything per day (and burn a lot less), however healthy, see what it does to you. BTW, we do need fat and cholesterol. It is all question of quantity and/or frequency of intake. I claim that Heart attack grill menu is unhealthy only if abused! ()

      You have a tendency to defend () certain wrongdoing by referring to other wrongdoings that are not being addressed. And that goes for other discussions we're currently engaging in.

      "someone could open up", yes, but would they? Should the "innocent" suffer inconvenience? No, as far as I'm concerned.

      "You want all workplaces to have zero chance of death or bodily harm?"
      Well, yes, at least have at as a goal.
      Following your train of thought, we're unsafe from the day we're conceived (you can take that even further back, probably). Does that mean we shouldn't do something about it?
      Females in military? Let's open a whole new discussion. How do you think things would go if you went to war against other nation with equal numbers and equally equipped. Only difference - you have all female, and your enemy has an all male army? Little digression :).
      Anyway, in many, if not all of those lines of work, zero accident/incident is already a goal.

      "Lastly no, of course a gender-based changing room is a privacy issue, but the fact that women are not allowed to golf at the Augusta National country club, for example, has nothing to do with privacy"

      But gym does, and that was the first example that you've used :).
      Joking aside, I agree, the same goes to gentleman's clubs in UK, and any similar situations.. It doesn't mean it's OK not do something about other issues first.

      Why would you accommodate someone's personal whim? In that case you should start having prayer rooms for all sorts of religions, masturbating rooms (yes, here I go repeating myself), sections for nose-pickers, wall-urination fans, nude sections etc. And don't go saying shear number of smokers should give any gravity to those claims, or majority or something, as you are well aware (judging from your blog) how wrong these things are as a basis of society laws.

      Hookah? Well. Wrong.

    8. OK I have no problem with arguing for arguments sake, but you've taken this into a whole other realm. No matter how you slice it, an 8000 calorie burger is not healthy. Just eating one more than a quarter of one of those has gone over your daily requirement of calories and saturated fat.

      I point out other "mistakes" not because I dont think anything should be done about them, but simply to illustrate a flaw in the argument of "being in the presence of smoke, no matter how little, is such an egregious health risk that it cannot be allowed in any private establishment, even if people choose to be there or work there". I submit there are other places of business that bring far greater risk to employee or customer and no one whines about their legality. The important thing is to know what risk you take, and from there you as an adult you pick and choose where you want to go and how you want to live your life.

      And why would I accomodate someone's personal whim? Thats not the point. The point is I CAN by RIGHT if I think that there is enough of a market for the whim that I want to satisfy. There ARE prayer rooms for plenty of religious people in most cities of most developed countries. There ARE sex clubs where you can go and publicly masturbate to your heart's conent. There ARE nude clubs and nude beaches and nude resorts and nude private parties where you can go and all be nude together. What is wrong with that?? In the same vein, I think people should be allowed to create a ventilated smoking club if they want, thats all.

    9. Can't let it go. Would you say that 8000 calories of, say, broccoli, per day every day, does you less harm?

      "is such an egregious health".. No, I'd rather say "such an unnecessary risk" and "risk we can easily avoid". Yes, there are other places of business with higher risk and it is brave to state that "no one" whines(a bit offensive, isn't it?) about it.

      And this whole "Let's have profit decide what is right and what is wrong" idea doesn't agree with me. If there is a market for racially/sexually/.. segregated buses/restaurants/.., why not have them? As long as they are private.

      BTW, I am not sure if you are trying to offend or are simply busy, but I am well aware of the prayer rooms. The thing is, number of personal needs and habits is infinite, and to accommodate them all in a single venue (that has nothing to do with it's base purpose) is possible in theory only. Since that includes smoking, smoking, as well as masturbating, nudity, praying, screaming etc., ought to be kept private.

    10. Yes, 8000 calories of broccoli in one sitting would absolutely be bad for you, not the least because to be able to consume 8000 calories of broccoli in one sitting will cause your stomach to explode and kidneys to fail several times over. Even inventing a super concentrated 8000 calorie broccoli pill, 8000 calories is far too much to eat in a single meal and is not healty regardless of how you consume it, even disregarding the enormous quantity of fat, cholesterol and salt youd also be putting in your body with one of those heart attack grill burgers.

      And we seem to be repeating ourselves here. I explained already discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation and religion is already legal in private businesses. You cant do it if you receive public money, but so long as its private IT IS LEGAL.

      And why are you under the impression that I was arguing for accomodating every weird preference or habit in a single venue? I never argued for that, nor do I see why you think that my pointing our the existence of prayer rooms or sex clubs is offensive. They exist, they are legal, so why not a private smoking club? Thats all I was saying from the very beginning

    11. So, anything stopping you from visiting Heart AB every 6 months and taking 1 bite out of that burger from - suddenly healthy - menu?

      I must be missing something important here: gender and sexual orientation discrimination are ordinarily not against the law, but I'm pretty sure racial and religious discrimination are.
      There is a difference between what you do "privately" and in "private business" - business is governed by set of laws and regulations.

      I am not under impression that you're trying, which is the point I'm trying to make - if you're not accommodating all of them, you're favouring those that you do accommodate, and that is not fair(?),right(?).
      It is practically impossible to accommodate them all, so why not leave them for the privacy of your own home? What is forcing you to display that particular habit while out?

  3. To have any argument Tomislav you need to prove that second hand smoke is dangerous, dangerous enough to be a threat to peoples health. I think that cars are FAR more dangerous than smoking in terms of the fumes they create. A carpet ban on all public places is an infringement of the rights of smokers, it makes no difference in a park that is by a main road, or in a train station where diesel trains plough through every 10 minutes.

    I don't think that smokers should be able to smoke in any public building, that is more a question of manners for me, and I would never dream of smoking in a bank/hospital/school but in a pub where people are drinking poison, I think it's a little rich to start taking a stance against smokers there.

    1. I never said the studies on second hand smoking are conclusive.
      Yours (or mine) habit or addiction is not something anyone else ought to deal with.

      "I don't think that smokers should be able to smoke in any public building, that is more a question of manners for me,"

      Agree, manners - if you could trust all people to have them, there would be no need for the law.

      "and I would never dream of smoking in a bank/hospital/school but in a pub where people are drinking poison, I think it's a little rich to start taking a stance against smokers there."

      The "poison" (and cars) remark should justify smoking, as in "drinking is allowed, and look what they're doing to tobacco"?
      The stance is not against the smokers, it's to protect others, even if only from (possibly) distasteful habit.

  4. Bravo! Bravo good sir, well done for having such incredible patience to talk with this Tomislav character, despite his very evident and deep character defects...

    I simply couldn't do it. There's no way I could talk so politely to such a freedom-hating statist authoritarian ass-hole. He's the kind of person I'd like to stub a cigarette out on his face - and I stopped smoking last year.

  5. Why should someone be singled out, to "protect others, even if only from (possibly) distasteful habit[s]"? This smacks of paternalism to me. It's basically "I know better than you, and I'm going to force my opinions and beliefs on you, with the force of law, whether you like it or not." The few studies on second hand smoke are over-trumpeted, and even the studies about primary smoking, and its affects, all are dishonestly tweaked to make it sound like you'll get lung cancer if you smoke, for say, 10 years. When in fact, the great majority of problems start after 70 years, for lifelong smokers, and only for around half! That hardly seems like a "pandemic" of health problems. Is smoking still dangerous? Sure. But so is drinking, driving, skiing, etc. Suppose I decide to ban automobiles because, just look at the stats. Cars cause millions of fatalities a year. So, because I know better than you, regardless of what you want, or your convenience, I will ban all cars from being used, damn, the consequences, because, again, they're dangerous, and you can't be trusted to make your own decisions; I'll make them for you. Paternalism is disgusting, and causes all sorts of problems. Let people live, and let people alone to make their own choices about what they put into their body, and about their own health. It doesn't harm anyone to walk down the street and smell someone smoking. Should their be places where you can't smoke? Sure, just like there are places you can't drink, masturbate, do pot, or go to sleep. But the reason for restriction has to be rational and fair, not based upon animus, misinformation, hysteria, or paternalism. Ultimately, there is no difference, say, between saying a woman can't get an abortion, a man can't smoke pot, a woman can't use birth control, or cannot smoke. These are all paternalistic assertions. I don't know what is best for the average woman, only she knows what is best for her, and I respect that. If, say, I know her well, then I might have the ability to give her advice because I care, but ultimately, her decisions are her own. Likewise, my decisions are mine, including whether I'm going to smoke or not. You don't know what's best for me, and I don't know what's best for you. A little grace and humility go a long way, proud chauvinistic paternalism does not.