Tobacco smoke is bad for you…but there’s another story here

October 18, 2010

…and this is a story about political attitudes and behavior.
First, the bottom line from PalMD:

While many may cringe at the paternalistic nature of public health laws, few complain about the availability of clean water and the notable absence of open sewers.

I lived through the smoking ban enacted in bars and restaurants and I couldn’t be more delighted. Although I was never particularly bothered by the smoke, no more than most that is, I certainly noticed the lack after the bans went through. No more smelly hair and clothes. No more changing the pillowcases after a night out because the smoke smell went from hair to the pillow like clockwork.
Since I’m not a smoker there was no problem.
But oh, you should have heard the caterwauling. Personal liberty was being infringed! (Never mind the liberty of others to be free from annoyance of smoke, eh? Why do the libertarians always forget that?) Business will be AffEcTed! Bars will close. Nobody will buy alcohol anymore! Nobody will go out to dine.
Naturally this never came to pass in my region of the world. Nor did it in a myriad of other jurisdictions that passed smoking bans.
Including NYC.
And here is a tale from a bartender who was practically on the ramparts to oppose the smoking ban. Changing. His. Mind. Based on the results of the policy as he personally experienced it.

And it was at that moment, silently of course, that I grudgingly had to thank old Mayor Bloomberg. For regardless of what his motivation was and regardless of the fact that he did it with an iron fist, the son-of-a-gun when it’s all said and done was right. The good, as it all turns out, outweighs the bad. And not just because of the major things, of which we are all aware, but the minor things of which you’re about to read…

Test out a policy change, evaluate the outcome. If you are originally opposed to the policy….what do you do? Do you leave your ego at the door and really look at the data? Or do you stick to your guns no matter what the evidence?
Scribbler is a standup guy for admitting he was wrong. May we all be able to do the same when public policies have results that are demonstrably better than our initial preferences.

40 Responses to “Tobacco smoke is bad for you…but there’s another story here”

  1. scribbler50 Says:

    Thank you very much, D.M., for the mention and you’re personal take on this. As for me, sometimes I have to be hit over the head but eventually I get the message. And this was a good one.
    Thank you again.


  2. brogers Says:

    This is progressive propaganda. The smoking ban closed nearly 400 bars in Ohio and has cost taxpayers $3.2 million to collect $400,000 in fines. Our small business owners are NOT happy with the smoking ban! It is so cost prohibitive that 42 of 88 counties have opted out of enforcement. Does that make you breath easier?


  3. becca Says:

    What would your response be to someone who was initially in favor of a smoking ban, but then realized they didn’t like it? Would you be so complimentary of their ability to change their mind in light of new information?


  4. History Buff Says:

    Well personal choice of the business owner and of the customer is dead. Since the business owner bears all of the expenses, I’m rather shocked the state governments are not picking up the losses tab. …… Beware when the money funder of smoking bans (the no-smoke product maker) gets into the razor and wig business. How will you like your public choice then?


  5. markw Says:

    Want to know how “deadly” shs is? It’s 4 to 25,000 times SAFER than OSHA workplace air quality regulations.
    And that comes from Johns Hopkins, BMJ published test results, ACS sponsored AQ testing etc.


  6. MonkeyPox Says:

    Dude, DM, who knew that you had so many libertarian shitbags for readers?


  7. Russell Says:

    As someone who has never smoked, I cheered as restaurants and workplaces were made smoke free. But I also see a puritanical streak that isn’t just motivated by the desire for clean air.
    And I dislike puritanism even more than smoke.


  8. marbee Says:

    Governments job is NOT to protect the people from themselves. You can get a copy of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights online.
    The surgeon general based it’s ideology of toxic smoke on an EPA report that was ruled on as fraudulent by a federal judge. The surgeon generals report is then also fraudulent. The surgeon general did not have to testify under oath to the validity of his claim. If you tell a lie enough, people will eventually fall for it. If you are so afraid of whiffs of cigarette smoke, you better start banning firefighters to protect them from their jobs!
    From the well respected Cato Institute: The Second-Hand Smoke Charade… Quote: It now turns out that the influential 1993 EPA report “Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking: Lung Cancer and Other Disorders” was as phony as a three-dollar bill. State officials and private businesses that believed that ETS was a public health danger (and not just a nuisance) were completely misled by the EPA. And, of course, so was main street American public opinion. So what explanation can there possibly be for trampling our citizens private property rights?


  9. whimple Says:

    I love Mayor Bloomberg. He’s awesome.


  10. delurking Says:

    “Personal liberty was being infringed! (Never mind the liberty of others to be free from annoyance of smoke, eh? Why do the libertarians always forget that?)”
    It isn’t the personal liberty of the patrons at issue, it is the personal liberty of the property owner. It is his property, why shouldn’t he be able to set the behavior rules? Those who don’t like them can go elsewhere or stay home. That is certainly how it works when I have a party at my house. Why should it be different if it I charge for entry?


  11. Joseph Says:

    Personally, I am all for people smoking as long as I don’t have to. Perhaps a smoking ban was extreme, but having seen the number of “nonsmoking sections” which were under negative or equal pressure relative to the “smoking section” (i.e. a smoke source which the was pulled or diffused into the non-smoking section making it equivalently a smoking section, just somewhat less smoky) I definitely welcomed it.
    The proper middle would have perhaps been a mandatory nonsmoking section under sufficient positive pressure relative to the smoking section such that the smoke in the nonsmoking section would be at a fixed concentration.


  12. John Says:

    Yikes! Seems you’ve rooted out a couple of troll-bots from way back when!
    From what I’ve seen, the only complaint I have is the failure of staff to keep up with the rush of business following the indoor smoking ban in Portland, Or. The biggest problem some businesses have now is figuring out how to scrape off / paint over the ghastly nicotine embedded in every nook and cranny without disrupting the massive influx of customers. I just wish they’d hire a few extras to keep up, the service is so slow now in the old bars there’s no danger whatsoever of excessive intoxication…


  13. delurking Says:

    So, John, why didn’t you and all the other owners just ban smoking in your own establishments earlier? It just isn’t plausible that banning smoking caused a net increase in business.
    Smoke apparently bothers me more than it does DrugMonkey, because I can’t stand being in bars where people are smoking. Still, if I don’t own the bar, I don’t presume to dictate the behavior rules.


  14. davidp Says:

    Since smoking bans, I can now go to far more music venues without making my asthmatic wife sick.


  15. Sammi Says:


    It isn’t the personal liberty of the patrons at issue, it is the personal liberty of the property owner.

    I don’t fully understand why smoking bans in bars became de rigeur in most of Europe recently, but the reason cited by governments was the health of the staff, who are exposed to the bar’s atmosphere for many hours each day, day in, day out.
    An argument that the staff choose to work in bars is one that would work less well in Europe than the US I think, simply due to the different cultural attitudes to personal rights and personal responsibilities versus society’s rights and responsibilities.
    I like smoke-free bars myself, but in Europe almost everywhere has bars reporting loss of business overall. Us non-smokers represent a smaller fraction of boozers than we do of the general population, and boozers have been staying away from bars because they can’t smoke at the same time, and want their fix, while few people say the opposite: oh, let’s go to the bar, it’s not smokey any more.


  16. hat_eater Says:

    Folks, may I remind you that the long term goal of this ban, although unstated for rather obvious reasons, is the elimination of smoking as a widespread habit. I smoked since I was 17, for 17 years, and I’d be much better off if I never did. Considering the addictive nature of nicotine, the only way to root out the smoking habit is to push it to the fringe of society and banning the public consumption of tobacco is one of the ways to do it.


  17. Spartan Says:

    But oh, you should have heard the caterwauling. Personal liberty was being infringed! (Never mind the liberty of others to be free from annoyance of smoke, eh? Why do the libertarians always forget that?)

    Apparently balanced by the caterwauling of cry-babies whose hair and clothes smell because they chose to visit/work at a private business that allows smoking. And despite your spin, you of course have always had the ‘liberty’ to be free from annoyances like smoke: stay away from people who smoke and the places they frequent. I manage to stay away from restaurants which have a bar area where the music is too loud for example, or where I dislike the smell of some of the food, or where I’ve had crappy service in the past, or myriad other annoyances; oh, my poor liberties!


  18. Anonymous Says:

    (Never mind the liberty of others to be free from annoyance of smoke, eh? Why do the libertarians always forget that?)
    By now, most people have come to expect neither honesty nor integrity on political issues from the OP. No libertarian I know of has forgotten that people have the liberty of avoiding smoke if it annoys. People exercise that liberty by NOT going onto private property in which smoking is allowed by the property owner.


  19. neurowoman Says:

    As someone who has recently gone to the emergency room due to exposure to second-hand smoke while attending a post-work function in a bar that allowed smoking (poorly ventilated at that), the anti-smoking bans folks can kiss my ass. So I have the freedom to never go out to a restaurant? To never go see a music show? To not meet a colleagues for a drink at the hotel bar at the convention? You have the freedom to haul your lazy ass outside and have a smoke. You have the freedom to wait 120 freakin’ minutes before you light up again. Go fuck yourselves.


  20. Ohio Bar Owner Says:

    How interesting that the author of this blog never saw the losses we bar owners suffer from smoking bans on our PERSONAL PRIVATE PROPERTY. If it was PUBLIC property, I would get subsidy money for our losses but WE ALONE are responsible for paying the bills with 1/3 the money we USED TO MAKE before forced to be smokefree. We had regulars..we lost them and their non smoking friends because their smoking friends left. How many of you who just love the smell of your clothes regularly patronize bars now? If you doubt that we’ve lost money n Ohio, do the math yourself. Scroll to the bottom of the webpage and look at wholesale liquor purchase declines since the ban (2007).
    We liquor permit holders are DOWN 1.1 MILLION BOTTLES while home consumption has INCREASED 4.4 MILLION BOTTLES. Seems to me “public health” has created an even bigger problem, the at home drinker drinking even more and the parties and smoke-easies springing up everywhere.
    Tobacco Control LIED about it not hurting our businesses. And don’t try to blame “the economy”..don’t insult us. One day we had a profitable business which was our future (we sunk everything we owned into it) and the next, we took away ashtrays and we lost vast amounts of money.
    Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.
    Adolf Hitler


  21. Vicki Says:

    You don’t have the unlimited right to make rules on private property or in a private business (whatever that racist Ron Paul might like): you can’t turn someone away from a bar because of the color of their skin, their gender, or a physical handicap. (You might not be obliged to install an access ramp, but if someone with a cane makes it up your stairs, you can’t turn them away because you think they’ll make your bar look bad.)
    Property is a social construct. There are sound reasons why we invented it and continue to use it, but it isn’t a physical thing in the world the way oxygen or trees are, and it isn’t an absolute.


  22. becca Says:

    “No libertarian I know of has forgotten that people have the liberty of avoiding smoke if it annoys.”
    No libertarian you know of has remembered that CHILDREN of SMOKERS do NOT HAVE THIS LIBERTY. As someone who grew up in such a home, I would just like to say, fuck you and everyone who smokes around any other set of lungs.


  23. Isabel Says:

    “A college student’s take on Prop 19, California’s legalize eet initiative ”
    Total citation-free and fact-free bullshit you are now promoting.
    Pretty desperate, huh DM?


  24. PalMD Says:

    Oh, Isabel…


  25. Isabel Says:

    Yeah as long as people are not promoting “woo” they can say whatever they want, right? Like cannabis causes lung cancer? And causes your brain to lose function? Totally cool with DM and PalMD!


  26. DrugMonkey Says:

    wtf straw arguments are you erecting now, Isabel? Are you suggesting that if I link to a blog post I am automatically endorsing everything in it?


  27. Clara Says:

    Your (perfectly valid) argument reminds me of Richard Dawkins’ program on faith schools – In a particular scene, a faith-head is passionately putting forward the (supposedly) libertarian argument about parent’s right to bring up its child in the faith of the parent’s choice. And Dawkins counters that by reminding the viewers the fact that
    His goal as stated in the program: “Isn’t it time for our society to rethink what is best for children? I want to explore the balance of rights between a parent’s rights to educate a child in their own faith and the children’s rights to determine their own beliefs and approach the world with a genuinely open mind.”


  28. Clara Says:

    Dear fellow libertarians,
    If there is one thing that we all ought to realize when talking about rights, it is this
    For example, what would you say to smokers, who have children, smoking in their own private homes? Now that isn’t forbidden by law. And yet, one cannot help wonder how to balance the parent’s right to smoke with the child’s right to avoid second-hand smoke? Of-course, the child may not always complain and even take to early smoking. Now if nobody is complaining, there is no longer any need for argument from rights, no question of conflict of rights. But then, the child’s health could have been far better in a healthier environment and the child never (truly) got to choose – you see the point, don’t you?
    We have to choose the right balance between opposing rights of different people keeping the larger picture in perspective – by trying to identify which things are gratuitous and which absolutely important (good health, for example).


  29. Melkor Says:

    ‘Course, the “Ohio Bar Owner” neatly neglects to factor in the recession and general economic downturn in Ohio since 2007 in his silly little rant because a little thing like half a million people losing their jobs shouldn’t make a damn bit of difference when it comes to how much disposable income people hate to go out to bars to drink vs. staying home, should it?


  30. Isabel Says:

    @StrawMonkey. Why are you linking to the equivalent of “woo” which we all supposedly hate? Could it be because the one link she did provide, despite her numerous dramatic (and false) assertions, was to your blogposts? Her lies about how it causes cancer and affects brain function etc don’t matter, eh?


  31. Anonymous Says:

    How much of the Medicare budget goes to pay for the elderly smoker health problems compared to the non-smoker? Do I have the right to choose to pay only the portion of Medicare tax that covers the bill of the non-smoker Medicare patient? Health insurance companies do have the right to deny you a health care policy or charge you more if you are a smoker. Actually, I agree that those who choose to delve into unhealthy behavior should pay more for their health insurance just as risky drivers pay more for their car insurance.


  32. Sarah Says:

    Ohio Bar Owner must not have looked at any other places where smoking bans were enacted before the recession either! Boulder, CO disallowed it or required separate ventilated rooms in bars more than 10 years ago. I sure never saw a change in the people who frequented it. I worked in a bar in another college town in Colorado that voluntarily banned smoking inside the establishment. The servers cheered (though many of them smoked) and business still boomed. Many places in Denver had voluntarily banned smoking inside before a legal ban was in place. Must not have hurt them much either.
    For the claim that people who worked in such an atmosphere “chose” it (a-la libertarian argument) I call BS. Waiting tables is a job that many college students take while working through college to make ends meet. It’s also one taken by many of those with low education or few skills and it rarely provides health insurance benefits. So those who are truly hurt the most by it were also those who couldn’t afford to be!
    If OSHA can tell my employer that I’m not allowed to work with dangerous chemicals without a hood, then I see no reason why employees in bars should have to put up with second-hand smoke 8-16 hours a day every day. When Seattle banned it I joked that they should make it optional, either ban smoking in the bar or put up heavy duty air filtration systems. You can bet the bars would’ve opted to ban smoking since the other way would be too expensive.


  33. Carol Says:

    And Mussolini made the trains run on time! The anti-smokers are guilty of flagrant scientific fraud for ignoring more than 50 studies, which show that human papillomaviruses cause over ten times more lung cancers than the charlatans pretend are caused by secondhand smoke. Smokers and passive smokers are more likely to have been exposed to this virus, and the anti-smokers’ studies are cynically designed to exploit this fact to falsely blame tobacco.
    Furthermore, for the government to deliberately commit fraud is inherently a violation of our Constitutional rights to the equal protection of the laws.
    And that dirty little traitor who pretended to oppose the ban never uttered a peep about these things. So, he was nothing but a fake opponent, chosen by the anti-smoker-controlled media to produce a sham pretense of presenting both sides of the issue.


  34. DSKS Says:

    “Personal liberty was being infringed! (Never mind the liberty of others to be free from annoyance of smoke, eh? Why do the libertarians always forget that?)”
    If they are practicing libertarians as opposed to merely self-proclaimed libertarians (but actually corporatists) they certainly don’t forget things like that. It’s a pretty fundamental aspect of the philosophy underlying all the factions making up classical liberalism, libertarians included: one’s freedoms are necessarily restricted to the degree that they do not impinge upon the freedoms of others.


  35. Joseph Says:

    Everyone knows that smoking is hazardous to their well-being and it produces countless health problems, but most individuals don’t know about the real risks of smoking. Don’t be fooled, the legitimate dangers of smoking are exceedingly hazardous and can put you in your grave.


  36. P Smith Says:

    Whenever I encounter someone not enlightened enough to grasp the damage of cigarettes and the inconsiderate nature of buttheads doing it in front of others, I use noise as an analogy.
    Imagine that instead of a law against smoking that there was a law about the loudest permissible noise. What would happen if constant noise within earshot of others, like music, were be limited to 85 decibels. Intermittent and temporary noise, like a car horn or construction zone, would be excluded, and idiots who want to play music at 120 decibels in their enclosed cars or headphones are still free to do so.
    There would be less noise pollution. Unwilling listeners would be less irritated. There would not be damage and discomfort to children. And the amount of long term hearing damage to both active and passive listeners would be greatly reduced. There would be less long term medical costs as well.
    ALL of these benefits and improvements have a direct parallel to the issue of smoking. Even if second hand smoke isn’t an issue, the selfishness and utter lack of consideration for those who don’t want to breathe garbage – or go deaf because of someone’s crappy music – is enough reason to ban or control both.
    Just as smokers turned out NOT to be inconvenienced by a ban on indoor smoke, so would people not be hurt by a reduced noise level. There would be less hearing impairment in the long term, and people would be able to socialize and have conversations at a speaking volume, not have to yell or go outside to talk.
    And when a bartender goes home and lies down on his pillow, his ears aren’t going to be ringing as he falls asleep.

    If governments really wanted to cut back on smoking, they would have the credit card reader adapted to accept medical care cards – buyers of cancer have to present one and have it swiped at the store. Those who smoke can pay higher health insurance, and those who don’t can pay less. It would have a 100% direct relationship between those most and least likely to get cancer.
    Those who don’t smoke shouldn’t have to pay for the health care of buttheads. Let them pay for it themselves through higher premiums.


  37. markw Says:

    Smoking bans are good for business? Huh, we must have missed that memo here in Minnesota.
    One year after the statewide ban in MN, the State Auditor’s Office Report found that bar / tavern revenues were DOWN, ON AVERAGE 31.9%.
    I guess that explains the 420+ closed bars and restaurants here in the land of 10,000+ unemployed hospitality workers.


  38. DrugMonkey Says:

    And do we know that the general economic picture is not at fault? Anyone have any data for similar businesses in states which did not change their smoking laws in the past 2-3 years? If MN was hit harder than predicted by the economy woes, then you might have a point.


  39. Actually, a lot of bar owners liked the change because it cut down on cleaning and repair bills — their staff didn’t get lung cancer so much — and once families realized that the bars weren’t choke-pits any more, business went up.


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