September 27th, 2006

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01:51 pm - on banning public smoking...

Originally uploaded by chrismaverick.
I was going to wait til after work to rant on this when I could sit down and really think it through to get down a good 1000 words of free flowing hostility, but since I've already addressed it a few times in sonbanon's post and its the superhot topic of discussion of the moment in my office, I figured I might as well take a break and jot down my thoughts.

Today, the Allgheny County Council voted to ban smoking in all bars, restaurants and similar establishments. This sucks. And not just because I am a smokter. It sucks because it is a complete denial of rights of the establishment. It is the same as Prohibition. This is not an issue of second hand smoke. People like to write it up like it is. But it isn't. Its an issue of where the public has a right to enforce its will. Is my local bar a public place or not? I say it isn't. It is a private establishment owned by a private owner. Not owned by the people. The owner makes the decision to allow me to come in and buy alcolhol from him. He should be able to decide whether he wants to allow me to smoke or not. The problem is that non-smokers like to say that they have the right to go to the bar and not be exposed to smoke. They do not. They have the right to go somewhere that is smoke free. The bar doesn't belong to them.

If someone wanted to propose a bill that banned smoking in outdoor public parks, I'd actually be all for it. Do I believe second hand smoke is harmful? Honestly, I do. I don't know that it is. But I'm willing to make the assumption that it probably isn't good for you, so you shouldn't have to be exposed to it. But there is no reason you shouldn't be able to open a bar that doesn't allow smoking. And there is no reason you shouldn't be able to open a bar that does. Do I think explicit rap lyrics are harmful? Not at all, but I support Walmart's decision to not sell them. Similarly, I support Target's decision to not sell cigarrettes. But I don't think we should stop Target from selling Eminem's CDs and I don't think we should stop Walmart from selling Marlboros. They each made their decision, and I think the world has dealt with it just fine. I know plenty of people who won't shop at Walmart because they have a problem with some policy of theirs or another. And I think that's a fine way to feel. The Squirell Hill Cafe (or the Cage, as its Patrons like to call it) exists for one reason and one reason only. Its a place where people can go and have a beer, a coffee and a cigarette. If you take any of that away, its not the same place and I don't want to be there anymore.

As one of the bar owners who was interviewed about this pointed out, its really sad because this is going to cost people jobs. Smoking is an indulgance. As is drinking. And if the 18th Ammendment taught us anything, its that people aren't going to stop doing something they want to do just because you made it inconvenient. They're just going to do it somewhere where you can't see it, and things are going to get bad.

Unilateral banning is just stupid. If someone really wanted to solve the problem, then why not suggest this solution. 50% (or 40 or 60 or whatever seems right) of Allegheny County licquor licenses must be awarded to non-smoking establishments. If that were the case, then there is suddenly no issue at all. If we did this then one of two things would happen. Either everyone would have what they wanted, or you'd have a whole bunch of really popular smoking bars and some lame non-smoking bars (or vice versa). But isn't having choice always good?

My big problem with this is that its an obvious slippery slope problem. If you're a non-smoker, its easy to say "oh wow, this will be great." But then what happens if someone wants to ban pro-wrestling because watching it might be harmful to children. Or they want to ban Howard Stern. Or abortion. They are all exactly the same issue. Do I like that there are country clubs that don't allow black people, or golf clubs that don't allow women? No, but I also don't like that there are all black fraternities or all women gyms. But I acknowledge that without those places being allowed to exist then we also can't have all jewish houses of worship or rated R movies, and that's what I think we're dealing with here.

Ok, there's my two cents. Let me know where you fall on this?

(85 comments | Leave a comment)

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From: (Anonymous) Date: September 28th, 2006 - 02:54 am (Link)
Although most of the discussions seem to center around the pro/con of any smoking ban for patrons and owners of establishments, I think the biggest beneficiaries will be the people that work there. Although I do not like being told what I can and can not do, I have to think that the bans have the saving graces of being at least ostensibly pro-worker. Which is quite remarkable, in the era of rampant deregulation.

Maybe I just feel this way because I live in Texas, where health problems and work-related injuries are considered character flaws.

Granted, anyone working at an establishment that goes out of business will suffer, those too are character flaws which can be overcome.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: September 28th, 2006 - 03:15 am (Link)
Another anonymous person. Hello there.

As I was saying to limpingpigeon above, I do acknowledge that part, but I still can't get behind that kind of regulation. Yes there are risks, as there are with many jobs, but at the end of the day, we're essentially saying that if I want to have an all smoking bar, I want to run it, I accept the risks of working there, and my staff feels the same way, I still don't have that right. If I want to have a racist all white, all male country club though, well, no problem at all.
[User Picture]From: max1975 Date: September 28th, 2006 - 04:04 am (Link)
Big surprise here, I agree with you completely*. And I think your 50% of liquor licenses idea is a very good one, though maybe the politics of who gets said licenses might get it's still inferior to the idea of the government staying the hell out of it.

I have no desire to offend people with my smoke...that's WHY I go to the cage, duh. I don't mind if 99% of the world is smoking-forbidden...I just want one place where I can go, sit down, have a cup of coffee and a cigarette without freezing my ass off. That's apparently too much to ask. Anti-smoking fanatics, you guys suck.

*You're still off your rocker regarding robodragons, though.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: September 28th, 2006 - 07:02 am (Link)
and that's what the issue really comes down to. This law doesn't create options for non smokers it removes all options for smokers and that is wrong. Freeing the slaves did not entail enslaving the whites.
[User Picture]From: jameel Date: September 28th, 2006 - 01:15 pm (Link)
I just realized that I mentioned this elsewhere but neglected to mention it here. I admit that my motivations for being for the ban are selfish.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: September 28th, 2006 - 02:46 pm (Link)
And as I just posted on DPB. That's my big problem with it. The reason laws like this are passed isn't for my health. As Max pointed out, if it were they'd make smoking illegal, or they'd think about the fact that now we're going to be forced to stand outside and smoke in the middle of January. The reason this law was passed was because its really easy to get non-smokers selfishly behind it. And then once you are, we now have precedent to create prejudicial laws that you might not be behind.

Why can't we invade Iraq? We invaded Afghanistan.

Why can't we censor cable and the internet? We censored broadcast and print.

Why can't we fine Will & Grace? We fined Howard Stern and the Superbowl.
[User Picture]From: jameel Date: September 28th, 2006 - 02:52 pm (Link)
I'm just not buying the slippery slope argument here.
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: September 28th, 2006 - 03:11 pm (Link)
well duh. that's why they're doing it. Because you will say "oh it doesn't matter, its just the smokers." And next time it'll just be the faggots. Then it'll just be the niggers. That's what a slippery slope is. The entire point is to start with something you're ok with and then slowly move the line to other things.

And slippery slope aside, you still haven't addressed the very real issue. Why do you care? Forget about slippery slopes for a second. How is my ability to smoke at the Cage affecting your life in any way, shape or form? You don't hang out at the Cage. Do you want to? Why? There's absolutely nothing to do there other than drink beer and coffee and smoke. That's its purpose in the world. Is my ability to smoke in my basement affecting you? What about my ability to invite Max over to smoke in my basement with me? What about if I give him beer and a sandwich while he's there? What about if I charge him a $5 bucks to defray my cost of beer buying? What about if I'm too lazy to carry the beer over to him and so I offer Steph $2 out of the $5 to walk it over for me. Oh wait, I just became a bar. Now its illegal. So let's just make it illegal to smoke and the problem goes away.

Ok, now how about violent video games. I can't have a violent video game in the mall arcade because little kids might play it. Playing violent video games breeds violence. There is just as much evidence supporting that as there are of the dangers of second hand smoke. (Ask Steph, she'll give you a million references) Ok, that's fine, no fighting games in public places. So I buy a Playstation for my kid. My kid wants games and I want to teach him the value of buying things, so I tell him that in order to play the video game he has to put a quarter in this jar everytime he plays. The money will go towards buying his next game (my mom did this with us when I was a kid, I think we only had to pay a penny, but hey, inflation). My kid is smart because he's got that healthy Maverick DNA. So he figures out he can get more money for more games by inviting the other neighborhood kids over to play Def Jam Fight for NY with him and charging them a quarter each. Crap, I just became an arcade. That's illegal. Lets just making fighting games illegal and the problem goes away.

Now hip hop music. Now gay marriage. Now vegetarianism.
[User Picture]From: jameel Date: September 28th, 2006 - 03:22 pm (Link)
Not responding because I can't cut and paste through this program, and I'd really need to in order to respond properly.
[User Picture]From: irondrake77 Date: September 28th, 2006 - 11:37 pm (Link)
First, I am a kinda-smoker, I only have a cigar about one a month or so, I don't smoke ciggs, but my wife does, so I am at least always exposed to something. I do not like the ban for a few reasons.

1. This ban wasn't put forth as a majority vote. While the coucil members are supposed to be representing their constituients. Something as far reaching as this ban for the whole county should really have been put through at election time. Probably the biggest reason to get people to go to the polls then.

2. It does take a away from the store owners about what they can and can't do with their property...They pay for that property they should have every say on what goes on there for as much as everyone is taxed. The best example is that Trans fat thing up in NY. The new oil cost more, so all stores have to adjust for that cost then...all I want is some fries, but the real message is that I can't make a healthy decision so the government has to step in to make sure that the fries I choose to eat don't kill me too quickly.

3. The true implemantation of this ban and it's affects will be seen post hast by the numbers that Bars in Westmoreland, Washington, Beaver, Butler from people leaving aside Allegheny bars to go watch the steelers game where they can smoke. I would say that anybar that would go out of business because of lost patronship becasue of the ban should be able to sue the council over the decision...but that's just me
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: October 2nd, 2006 - 12:33 pm (Link)
Yeah, the transfat one is the one that really bothers me, and is proof pure and simple of the slippery slope thing that I keep talking about. Sometimes I don't WANT to eat healhy. I should have that option.
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 2nd, 2006 - 04:41 am (Link)
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: October 2nd, 2006 - 12:31 pm (Link)
None of your personal preferences have anything to do with it. That's my biggest problem with this. People who might otherwise be against a prejudicial ban supported it out of self-interest. After all, its "just the smokers." But it could have just as easily been the gays. Or the blacks. Your very comment shows this.

In any case, the county comissioner and the state stepped in and the bill is dead.
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