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March 29, 2005

I think I support smoking bans

Big kerfuffle over at Pandagon regarding a proposed smoking ban for Austin bars and restaurants... Judging by the number of comments, smoking is more controversial than torture and euthanasia combined! So, I figured I should weigh in.

I'm a qualified supporter of smoking bans. As a utilitarian New Yorker, I think our state's ban has been a good thing. The devastating economic forecasts didn't materialize. I have nothing against smoky bars, but I'm amazed at how much more pleasant nightlife became without the smoke. If nothing else, New Yorkers have probably saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in dry cleaning since bars and clubs became smoke-free.

I think adults should be allowed to use whatever substances they want. And, in general, business owners should be allowed to run their establishments as they see fit. However, this leeway doesn't extend to practices that jeopardize their employees' health and safety.

The hospitality industry should be subject to the same air quality standards as other sectors. If smoking establishments typically violate workplace exposure limits, then employers should be required to ban smoking. (Maybe employers should be required either to ban smoking or invest in ventilation equipment to bring air quality up to code. However, for bars and restaurants a ventilation option would unfairly disadvantage smaller businesses. If ventilation were an option, big establishments would buy the equipment and siphon customers from smaller competitors who couldn't afford the machines. So, all things considered, if smoking establishments are dangerous to employees, an across-the-board ban is probably the more equitable option.)

Here's where it gets complicated. Do smoking establishments typically violate OSHA air quality standards? Note that OSHA hasn't set any limit on tobacco smoke, per se. But the Agency does set permissible exposure limits (PEL) and short-term exposure limits (SEL) for many of the carcinogens found in smoke.

However, if this old OSHA document is any indication, indoor smoking isn't usually sufficient to violate air quality standards:

It is rare, however, that an overexposure occurs simply as a result of indoor air contaminants generated solely by smoking of cigarettes.

I thought I'd throw this one out to the collective hivemind: Does smoking in bars and restaurants typically expose employees to risks that would be considered unacceptable in other industries? If not, do smoking bans apply an unfairly high standard to hospitality employers vs. those in other industries.

So, what do you think?


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» No Smoking! from Grammar.police
While I'm as sympathetic as the next Austinite to Amanda's impassioned pleas to spare Austin from the curtain of smoking bans closing on the nation, except, well, I'm not as sympathetic as the next Austinite. I should be. Not only... [Read More]

» No Smoking! from Grammar.police
While I'm as sympathetic as the next Austinite to Amanda's impassioned pleas to spare Austin from the curtain of smoking bans closing on the nation, except, well, I'm not as sympathetic as the next Austinite. I should be. Not only... [Read More]

» No Smoking! from Grammar.police
While I'm as sympathetic as the next Austinite to Amanda's impassioned pleas to spare Austin from the curtain of smoking bans closing on the nation, except, well, I'm not as sympathetic as the next Austinite. I should be. Not only... [Read More]

» At Last! Something We Can All Disagree On! from What Do I Know?
Tired of the lockstep agreement in the left-wing blogosphere? So am I. That's why I was glad to see my homeys have grown disagreeable. Amanda at Pandagon weighs in against the ban on smoking proposed in Austin, as does Norbizness. [Read More]


Having been a comm'l kitchen denizen at a time of transition (to a "No Smoking" section first- and then the end of smoking inside the establishment) I'll say this: the ionic 'smoke-eater' that was rented went through a $5. charcoal filament about every 3 weeks; the machine rented for around $15./mo; the element could be cleaned as often as one wanted (it usually was sent throught the dishwasher weekly); and it worked (according to wait staff and customers).
Re smokeless tobacco- here in the Great Northwet it's not uncommon to see hominids in the bars of logging & fishing communities with a snoose-filled lower lip and a soup can in one hand. Considering that one sees people in restaurants with their O2 bottles on a cart, I suppose it's just another example of folks brandishing elements of their personal support systems... Personal spitoons can be discreetly handled. I remember a marvelously seedy old jazz pianist who kept a Mickey's Bigmouth bottle planted firmly in the inside pocket of his Harris tweed sports coat, just for this purpose (& I thought he was just sniffing something, periodically).
Maybe it SHOULD be up to the owner of each place what the smoking policy will be, with the caveat that any staff who wishes to wear a respirator can do so with impunity. Hey- it might become trendy- "Let's dare to smoke while we eat, since the food in this place is so bad, who'd want to taste it?"
Then, of course, you'd see the same thing that we saw out West in the fruit orchards a few decades ago, when the orchardists who wanted to spray "Stop-drop" or "Alar" while the trees were being picked would only hire latinos, so they wouldn't have to hear any grumbling or protestations. That worked so well that I don't think one can get a job picking fruit, anymore, w/o fluency in Spanish... ^..^

First, on a free market and libertarian basis, it should be up to the owner of any establishment to ban or not ban. Public facilities should be able to ban with the appropriate voting or decision-making by those appointed to manage the faculties as proxies for the public “owners”. I have no problem with bans at public facilities. It is, IMO, not constitutional to tell a property owner what lawful activity may or may not be conducted entirely within their property.

Regarding those exposed to second hand smoke in a non-ban establishment, they are free to vote with their feet. The owner can and should make the decisions on the balance of preferences expressed by those who enter his premises, including the preferences of those who would work or not work for him or her.

Second, the science on secondhand smoke is not as rock-solid as is generally believed. Certainly there is a big difference between taxi drivers “hotboxed” with a hundred cigarettes a day and one-hour patrons of a large sports bar or bowling alley, even if a blue haze is visible. Like Lindsay, I think some measurable standard should be required to justify a ban.

Third, and as others have noted obliquely, there are many measures of risk and harm that arise when people interact with each other in society. Dr. “don’t risk me and my family in your insurance pool” shares the road every day with people of vastly varying ability to operate a motor vehicle; should he have some say as to the kinds of exercise they do, or their diets, or of their mental habits of concentration or placement of their hands on the wheel?

Should he have some notice of their recent past exposure to people with the flu when he enters a public space? In fact, should he have some day into whether they left the lights on at home before they came out, since that would burn more electricity and thus increase airborne particulates, sulfur dioxide and ozone?

Might he not reasonably request a ban on coin-operated games that feature guns or motorcycles, since those may influence his offspring to some future unhealthy behavior?

The odds are pretty high that walking through a cloud of smoke a few times a day will not have a material effect on anyone’s health- people who think of tobacco smoke as some kind of gaseous plutonium need to snap into a better analysis of the real risk factors of everyday life.

This debate is about social control, as many are, and the controllers will always find enough justification to exercise power. Many feel a conscious or subconscious need to justify their control lust with a scientific mantle pointing to some risk or outcome, but much of the time, objective reality does not support their position.

Try telling those Madd Mothers that Dale Earnhardt Jr. at .15 BAC is a better driver than most of us will ever be stone cold straight- see what kind of look you get in return. Just book ‘em Barney.

Something to consider--one attempt to get a smoking ban through city council here in Austin got shot down by the pro-ban councilmen because anti-ban councilmen tied language about addressing overall air pollution in Austin. It was, I think, an attempt to expose that pro-ban councilmen were not so much interested in enviormental health issues as remaking downtown bars.

The policeman's association here is also opposed to the ban because they are afraid that they will be called on to enforce it, even though the bill is written so that enforcement is a health department issue. I found that angle intriguing and have to wonder what the NYPD association's stance on the ban was.

As for the spitoon argument that was brought up at Pandagon, yes we have them here and it's best if you just ignore them. Hell, there were people agitating for a spitoon at my high school.

I'm a smoker who lives in California, and I frequent two bars that allow smoking. One of them is a tiny dive bar where the bartenders allow people to smoke because there is usually only one of them on shift at a time, and it's not really practical for them to go out front and have a smoke when there are people at the bar. The other one is a well-ventilated bar where people are allowed to smoke upstairs. Upstairs it can get kind of hazy, but when you're downstairs you can't even tell anybody is smoking in the place.

I don't believe in government bans on smoking in bars. Experience tells me that most of the people who go to bars smoke - whether they are regular smokers, or casual smokers who only smoke when they are at bars. I get bitter when I hear opinions similar to some of the ones expressed on these comments, because I feel that this is a case of a minority imposing their will on a majority. I wonder how many of these people even go to bars. Bars are a place for sin and unhealthy activity. Nobody's trying to say I should be able to light up at your health club. Bars without smoke smell like stale beer and B.O. Most bar staff I have personally talked to can't stand the smoking ban, and are still just as pissed about it as they were a few years ago. I don't go to ritzy white collar bars, so maybe there is where the disconnect is.

On the left and right, there are always people yelling at the government to force people to live a certain way. This is an area where I am very much in favor of letting the marketplace make the decision.

Bars without smoke smell like stale beer and B.O.

Well, there's a good reason.

I don't go to ritzy white collar bars, so maybe there is where the disconnect is.

Because the man is trying to keep the working class down? Shit, if A) I was in a position to do so, and B) I wanted to control non-"ritzy" people, I would actively encourage them to smoke. And chew tobacco at the same time.

because I feel that this is a case of a minority imposing their will on a majority.

You might want to check your numbers.


The Gap and the Bananna Republic and TGI Fridays are coming whether you like it or not and smoking in a dive bar isn't going to change that. It's called business. If Austin wasn't such a hip place Urban Outfitters wouldn't be there. If people weren't willing to spend money on commercial crap in Austin, Chili's might not be replacing the Chili Parlor Bar.

It's time to move on - there's a cycle to this. It's well documented. Look at Seattle today.

Smoking bans need to be either tightened or loosened. As it is now, the only place I'd go where people smoke is the strip club. It's a dead give away. When my wife asks, "Where have you been?" I can't exactly say I've been to the dentist. I mean, sure, it would explain the beer all over my shoes, but not the cigarette smell.

"The numbers of smokers are going down. Since 1965, the percentage of adult Americans who smoke has dropped from 42.4 to 22.5 in 2002, according to the CDC's latest data. Smoking among high school students rose during the 1990s to a high of 36.4 percent in 1997; it dropped dramatically to 21.9 percent in 2003.

For the first time since the CDC started keeping track, more adults have quit the habit than still smoke."

I don't think its a "minority imposing its will on majority." My experience tells me that most people who go to particular bars smoke...but the vast majority of people simply don't smoke and the bars I've seen in the last several years have a minority of people who do smoke.

In addition to bars...there are restaurants with kids in them (and don't talk to me about smoking sections unless they're seperate and seperately ventilated). Further, there are coffee shops. I remember in college in the early-mid 90s being suprised that the one coffee shop in town that allowed smoking closed within about 2 months of becoming the only shop in town where one could smoke inside. Turns out that the people who smoke, like to have an option...and like to not go home reeking of it either.

"I'd like to hear what policy is about chewing tobacco." -PSoTD

You ask, The Onion answers!

Gack. I'm an ex-smoker in a state filled with smokers (Oklahoma) and right close by three of the other most hardcore smoking states (Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana).

And quitting smoking for me really didn't do that much for my health because, embarrassingly enough, I never really inhaled. I just liked to light them and wave them around wildly in the air while carrying on about whatever. Although I'll admit, I haven't had one sinus infection since I quit, and my allergies have all but jumped ship.

The bigger issue for me is (and was) this: smokers stink to high heaven. Blegh! And maybe American smokers stink so much because American cigarettes suck so bad. But I don't care.

There's a lot of people I just don't like being around too much any more because they stink from cigarettes.

So OSHA-schmosha. The stink should be enough to dissuade people. Blegh!

Thanks Njord, loved the Onion story!

Defeatism is not really the attitude that gets me out and blogging every day. Also, it's incorrect. Optimists lose a lot of battles, but they win some. Defeatists win shit. It's a strategy thing, Chris.

Defeatists win shit. It's a strategy thing, Chris.

It's not being defeatist necessarily, you want to fight a very difficult battle that no one has been able to even fully understand, let alone win. As for strategy, that's where you're mistaken. You can smoke in the Chili's in Philly and you can smoke in the Outback Steakhouse in Memphis. The chain of causation is very weak in your argument.

I've been a heavy smoker for over 20 years. I recently had a stress test and chest X-ray, both of which came out fine. Maybe I'm being foolish here, but I fail to see how a non-smoker being exposed to a smoky bar could result in any long-term health consequences. Obviously I'm biased on this, and I'm not a health care professional so I'm probably overlooking all kinds of relevant details. Still, I've smoked over a pack a day for two decades. When I'm not currently lighting up, I spend an inordinate amount of time in my smoke-filled house and driving around in my smoke-filled car. In short, there's no way a non-smoker could even come close to exposing her or himself to the same amount of tobacco smoke that I've taken in over the years, and yet I can still run a few miles on the treadmill each morning. Of course, I need to cough up a few loogies before and after, but you get my point. I'm just skeptical of the claims that someone's going to get lung cancer from working in a bar or something.

I'm much more amenable to the nuisance angle. Smoking does stink, and even I hate the way all my stuff reeks. I can see a reasonable argument being made that my right to enjoy myself in public (by smoking) shouldn't trump your right to enjoy yourself (by not being subjected to smoke). Of course, your right shouldn't trump mine either, so I guess that's a pointless exercise. Which is entirely appropriate, I suppose, because in the long run I think it's pointless to resist the anti-smoking jihadists. The majority of adults don't smoke, and the tobacco companies make easy targets, so smokers like me will just have to accept the fact that we have no rights, even though we're the ones that are impacted the most.

Cigarette smoke does hurt people, whether they breathe in the smoke directly or indirectly.

Are you sitting comfortably? There are many factors which influenced the development of smoking bans. Cited by many as the single most important influence on post modern micro eco compartmentalism, smoking bans are featuring more and more in the ideals of the young and upwardly mobile.

Of course smoking is very injures for health therefore we need to control for these because we need to build a better health care system.

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