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Telling lawmakers to butt out

Here in New Hampshire, we are teetering on following our fellow New England states in passing a comprehensive no-smoking law, that would ban lighting up in restaurants in lounges. The proposed law has passed the House and is headed for the Senate -- where the fight is looking uncertain. Our governor (a Democrat) has not, to the best of my knowledge, said whether or not he would sign the bill.

Now, I am a militant anti-smoker. Both my parents died of smoking-related causes. I cannot stand the smell of smoke. I will do almost any favor for a friend, but I will never aid and abet them in getting cigarettes. If a virus were to suddenly sweep the globe and render the tobacco plant extinct tomorrow, I would rejoice.

But above that I put principle and freedom.

No one is compelled to visit -- or even work in -- a place that tolerates smoking. People are always free to vote with their feet, vote with their wallets, and decide whether or not they want to frequent such places. Several years ago a Manchester 24-hour diner (the Red Arrow) decided to make the switch after decades and ban smoking. Many predicted it would be the diner's death-knell. Instead, their business actually increased.

Likewise, one lawmaker cited one of her constituents, who had just spent almost $20,000 installing a ventilation system to keep the smoke away from the non-smokers. Should the law pass, the restaraunt in question will have wasted all that money it spent in complying with the current law.

I've been to restaurants that have smoking sections. I don't like them -- I almost always end up getting a whiff or two of smoke, and it annoys me and throws me off my meal. But I have a simple choice -- I can simply go elsewhere, and give my hard-earned dollars to those businesses that act in a way with which I agree.

But I certainly don't need to get the power of the state behind me. They ought to have more important matters to deal with -- or, most importantly, simply do nothing.

That's one of the nice things about New Hampshire and our part-time legislature (we pay them $100 per YEAR for serving). They seldom feel "obligated" to earn their pay by simply passing new laws, like seems to happen so often in Massachusetts.

Comments (31)

I always thought that if pe... (Below threshold)

I always thought that if people would just leave smokers alone, things would balance out automatically. Those people who want to smoke would congregate where smoking is accepted, and those who did not want to smoke or be around smokers would congregate where smoking is banned. Non-smoking bars would appear alongside smoker-friendly bars, and legislation for or against banning smoking would not be needed.

But no, politicians have to mess with things that are none of their business just to say they accomplished something "important". It's for the children, after all.

Unfortunately, until govern... (Below threshold)

Unfortunately, until governments began requiring anti-smoking steps, few if any businesses considered the no-smoking rules. Rare anecdotes of businesses that have further underscores the problem.

Perhaps you might explore why this failure has occurred. This is true not just in the US, but around the world. I'd say that tobacco addicts and tobacco companies have such a strong vested interest in continuing and promoting tobacco use, that with their resources and drive, it is hard to offer a counter without some organized societal response.

I'd also like to drive on roads without drunks on them - why do I need a law against drunk driving when we can just choose not to drive on roads with drunks?

$100 bucks a YEAR? Incredib... (Below threshold)

$100 bucks a YEAR? Incredible. Does it have any influence on the political campaigns?
You are kidding, right?

Epador, comparing the drunk driving issue with no smoking, I think, is unfair. You can walk away from a restaurant, take your business elsewhere. And they aren't supported by public infrastructure funds.
Roads are different. Taxpayer funded, used by everyone regardless of race, color, creed, sex, national origin, religion, etc. Pretty much wide open. The "who cares" attitude is prevalent when it comes to lawbreaking - and no one can tell until you either run into them or blow their doors off, depending on direction. Different in a restaurant - the guy sitting next to you may take your head off - for smoking.

I'm sorry, but I never went... (Below threshold)

I'm sorry, but I never went to a restaurant that had smoking and non-smoking that wasn't all smoking (that is, you smelled it...c'mon, if you don't smoke you know you can smell it when the guy is smoking two cars ahead of you on the highway with your windows up). So I really find it hard to swallow the 'non-smokers will go where there are other non-smokers'...it just never happened in my experience. Yeah, maybe eventually a few places might pop up that are non-smoking (like in the original post, you named one place, and I'll bet everybody will attack me and name one place near them they know of), but c'mon, vote with your dollar? One restaurant in a city? One restaurant will never attract a sufficiently diverse crowd and will never get so amazingly popular that everyone else will say 'hey, we need to go smoke free too!' For this and probably no other reason, I am glad I now live in NY where the restaurants (but not the areas just outside all the restaurant doors) are smoke-free. I'm not happy that it had to be mandated and never will be, but I'm grateful that I can enjoy the ends the means did not justify. As omnipotent dictator I would've chosen to make voluntarily smoke-free restaurants more popular instead of making them all non-smoking. I'd be a fair omnipotent dictator that way.

Hmmm.Evidently fac... (Below threshold)


Evidently facism is ok as long as it makes you happy.

While the drunk driving com... (Below threshold)

While the drunk driving comparison may seem unfair, looking at other posts, you see that there are those of us who find that where there are not laws, there really is no choice but to breath smoke if you go to a restaurant. I choose to stay off the roads when drunk driving is at its peak (both clock and calendar) if possible, but there are times when I have to take my chances. If I decide to go out to eat in Europe, and some American States, I am going to be breathing smoke. My only choice is whether to go out to eat or stay home.

Man one whiff of tobacco sm... (Below threshold)

Man one whiff of tobacco smoke and your off your feed?? Must not be much of an appetite. It almost sounds irrational. Maybe smokers should just be shot on sight.

Jay, I agree totally. Priva... (Below threshold)

Jay, I agree totally. Private restaurants should be able to decide for themselves. The more governement regulates, the more it wants to regulate. Already we are moving on from tobacco to groups wanting to regulate your food choices. Check this Walter Williams column.


The nanny state is rapidly approaching.

Twenty grand for a ventilat... (Below threshold)

Twenty grand for a ventilating system? That's nothing. I can think of three restaurants off hand, all Greek-owned family-style places, which were built with two completely seperate dining sections. I would assume that this increases daily operating costs.

this changes the subject si... (Below threshold)
sean nyc/aa:

this changes the subject significantly, but it's been on my mind and this post is somewhat relevant.

Why do conservatives think US gov'ts (local, state, and federal) should butt out of our lives and the less they do the better, yet think the a gov't formed in the wake of an invasion is capable of improving the lives of Iraqis? I realize the US and Iraq are completely different situations, but the conflicting ideas of the less gov't the better vs. the gov't will solve the problems facing a society are at opposite ends of the spectrum and don't seem like they would come from the same political party.

Just food for thought. enjoy!

The problems with the posit... (Below threshold)

The problems with the position that it should be left to the businesses are threefold:

1. Smoking is a drug addiction. Nothing more, nothing less. With no economic benefit to society. Normally, if people want to poison their own bodies, that's fine with me. The herd will thin itself out, but ...

2. Smoking affects the health and well-being of people around the smoker who have no choice in whether or not to smoke. You get to inhale carcinogens and smell horrible because the person next to you has a drug addiction and chooses to make you a part of it with no say from you. Uh, no, thank you very much. Smokers' rights end when the smoke hits my nose.

3. Businesses by and large did nothing for their nonsmoking patrons before these laws went into effect. Oh, they had "non-smoking" sections, but they never worked. Never. I don't care if one business spent $20k on a new air filtration system. It was a fiction, never going to physically be able to keep the smokers and non-smokers separate. Might as well try to create a no peeing section in a swimming pool.

But they usually didn't even go that far. They wanted to have the fiction of a non-smoking section while keeping all the smokers. Better for business, they said. If you want no smoking, they say go somewhere else. Or stay home. But if no restaurants were non-smoking because of the cake-and-eat-it-too argument I outlined above, then a non-smoker really had no choice. Sorry, but for a non-smoker to be so restricted because of someone else's drug addiction is unacceptable.

But if you still have a problem with such laws, please let me know where and when you will next time be in a restaurant. Then I can try to take Scott Adams' advice and, just when you are trying to eat, fart right in your face.

During the early 1990's, I ... (Below threshold)

During the early 1990's, I worked as a consultant to bars and restaurants that were seeking to prevent local governments from imposing smoking bans on them. In the course of this work, I became somewhat of an expert on (a) second-hand smoke, and (b) ventillation technology. So, with that preface, here are two assertions you can argue with:

1. The whole "second hand smoke is a Class A Carcinogen" is unadulterated crap. It is a fact that, when the anti-smoking nazis could not prove by means of the accepted protocols of scientific verification that there was a statistically significant correlation between cancers and exposure to second hand smoke, they did what all sanctimonious do-gooders do -- They changed the rules, doubling the standard deviation from 5% to 10%, and aggregating results from dissimilar previous tests, and PRESTO, they got CDC to go along with their claim.

This is not to say that second hand smoke is not an irritant to some, or that it isn't disgusting, unpleasant, gross, inconvenient, or any number of adjectives that might cause a restaurant owner to think tice about exposing his non-smoking customers to it.

2. There are most certainly available means and methods of ventillation that will completely remove smoke from indoor air before it can reach the noses of non-smokers. They are expensive, they are rare --notably because they never were given a chance to work before they became obsolete due to the rapid expanse of bans after the anti-tobacco crowd got their mitts on the BILLIONS of dollars they could spend on propaganda.

During the course of my work, I came into contact with hundreds and hundreds of non-smoking restaurant goers and restaurant owners. What they all told me was pretty simple.

Restaurant owners never did much to separate smokers from non-smokers because their non-smoking customers didn't really put up that much of a stink (er, pun) (not enough of them to prompt owners to make an economic decision to address their complaints).

And many non-smokers felt as strongly about the freedom-to-choose argument as they did about their aversion to smoke. In fact, in polling I conducted in the unusually liberal region of western Massachusetts, non-smokers were consistently evenly split on whether smoking should be completely banned in eating and drinking places.

Now let me ask ProCynic a question:

If I decided that the company of smokers was so important to me socially that I decided to open a bar/restaurant as a private club, the membership of which were to have as their common interest the enjoyment of tobacco products of all kinds let's call it The Puffers Club), and I employed only people who were themselves smokers and willingly put themselves in that environment, would you oppose my right to do that?

And you make an interesting... (Below threshold)

And you make an interesting question, Wavemaker. Touche. I disagree with you on both of your scientific claims, but we can agree to disagree for now. Please allow me to think out loud (in HTML?) about your question.

At first glance, I would have to say I have no problem with it. If smokers want to smoke, that's fine with me. Just don't do it around me. Sound selfish? Sound fascist? So be it.

If they want to do it where it does not affect me or other non-smokers who wish to enjoy going out without having to put up with someone else's drug addiction, I have no issue with it. The important part for me is to make such places the exception rather than the rule, which they are now. The table needs to be flipped in favor of non-smokers rather than smokers. That's what these laws do. Once that table is flipped, then we can go with the smoking clubs.

I think I can see where you're going with this, but that's OK. I think a line should be drawn somewhere. Just a matter of where.

ProCynic: Yes, it does soun... (Below threshold)

ProCynic: Yes, it does sound fascist, if you assume that the environment you might enter into has to accomodate your local ban. A better idea: if someone is smoking, how about you not go near them?

Now, I grew up in New Jersey, and who knows, maybe at the time they had some advanced non-smoking laws on the books, but in the fifteen years I was out there, going to restaraunts with both smoking and non-smoking sections, I rarely caught a wiff of smoke, and those few times were because I was right next to the smoking section. After a couple expeierences like that, my family and I learned that you can actually ask to be seated somewhere away from the smokers. Now the only time I ever run into smoke at a restaurant is when I'm out getting a meal with a smoker, which is an occasion that is thankfully rare enough that I'm happy to play the tolerant and understanding friend for a while.

If you want a few common sense laws to provide some protection for the sensory organs of non-smokers, that's great. But banning it outright is not flipping the table in favor of non-msokers. It is taking the table and breaking it over the head of the smokers.

It is ironic that while CA ... (Below threshold)

It is ironic that while CA has made numerous attempts to decriminalize pot, "legalized" medical pot, it also has some of the most draconian laws against tobacco smoking in the country.

Several cities have banned smoking on their beaches and last week Calabasas (in Southern California inland from Malibu) instituted a city-wide ban on smoking EVERYWHERE public. Streets, sidewalks, parks...even smokers who go outside their office to smoke cannot gather together in one place to smoke. As a smoker you CANNOT expose ANYONE to "2nd hand smoke" under any circumstance. Smoke in your car? Your windows had better be rolled up. Smoke in your home? Your neighbors had better not smell it.


FWIW, the ban in MA hasn't ... (Below threshold)

FWIW, the ban in MA hasn't resulted in a hue and cry from civil libertarians (not even a peep, actually)-- and I can't say I miss the opportunity to smoke in a bar, "social smoker" that I am. I think smokers are resigned to their second-class status. And the concern that it would result in lost business has panned out only for a few establishments. It HAS resulted in some pretty crappy looking sidewalks, though.

I just returned from Washington DC, where smoking is still allowed (until 1/1/07) -- and it was kind of startling just how noticeable the smell of smoke was after all this time not being exposed to it.

Nonetheless, smokers deserve to have a place to go where they are not treated as paraiahs.

And ProCynic, the table was flipped a while ago. The clubs' time has come. But thanks for the nod.

Well perhaps the right of f... (Below threshold)

Well perhaps the right of free association meaning nothing here either, because the SJC has just ruled that even private clubs are not immune from over-regulation by health nazis....http://news.bostonherald.com/localRegional/view.bg?articleid=131776

The real question is why ar... (Below threshold)

The real question is why are bars and restaurants the only business who seem to believe that they can exempt themselves from OSHA by claiming that they are private property? If I run a machine shop, I have to protect workers from air particulates, noise, or heat. An OSHA inspector would laugh in my face while fining me if I fail to do it or if I claim my employees are there voluntarily and can just find another job if they do not want to be exposed to workplace hazards above OSHA limits.

Why are bars allowed to play music above the OSHA workplace limit without hearing protection for workers? Why are bars allowed to expose workers to airborne hazards (smoke) that no other business would be allowed? Why are kitchens are allowed to be excessively hot without proper wor- rest cycles?

Ask yourself this: If a restaurant refuses to comply with smoking regulations, why makes you think they are complying with sanitation regulations or the tax laws?

It's always amazed me that ... (Below threshold)

It's always amazed me that Congress has not simply outlawed the sale of tobacco products and settled this issue once and for all. I still smoke, and would have no objection to a universal ban, because I know it's a stupid addiction.

Years of propaganda have reduced the number of smokers to minority status, so it should be able to pass, particularly when it gives politicians the opportunity to bloviate about "the children" and the "will of the people". Never saw a politician able to resist those when cameras are around. With enough political muscle, we could make repeat drunk driving offenses a capital crime.

But then again, federal, state and local governments would be whining about all that "lost revenue" from excise and sales taxes. Chicago just added $10.00 a carton tax on cigarettes, on top of several other taxes, which seems to be the extent of their concern on this subject. Personally, I would be fine with the idea of recapturing this lost revenue by simply raising the sin taxes on alcohol, and it would be easy to support with the same kinds of statistics and "scientific proof" used to marginalize tobacco. A case could easily be made that more people die in alcohol-related traffic accidents and diseases due to alcohol than tobacco. Teddy Kennedy would be apoplectic, of course, but why not, since we've decided we're in the business of legislating value judgements?

What I do object to is all the hypocrisy swirling around this subject. Why is drinking such a sacred cow? As a heavy drinker myself (I had three beers last year, after all), I would not object if it reduced some of the carnage on our highways. And I hate the smell of second hand fumes and drinkers in general. They MUST be dangerous to children.

Next, we go after them icky Jehovah's Witnesses...gun owners...cell phones...SUV owners...motorcycles. And lady Power Walkers - disgusting public nuisance if I ever saw one.

JSchuler,Because t... (Below threshold)


Because that would be pretty much anywhere. I would have to restrict myself to pretty much my home. That might be acceptable to you :-) but it's not to me. WHy should i have to risk my health to go out simply because of someone else's drug addiction?

Wavemaker and JSchuler,

Actually, the table was not flipped while back. In every restaurant we go to that has both smoking and non smoking sections, we can smell the smoke, which permeates your clothing with all the invidiousness of liberalism. To get back inside my office building we have to wade through a toxic cloud from smokers congregating outside the doors in yet another one of their hour-long smoke breaks. Don't even get me started on smokers tossing their cigaratte butts out their car windowns in another example of their "The World Is My Ashtray" Philosophy.

And all for someone else's drug addiction. ALl because someone is so addicted to this drug and so selfish that they have to inconvenience and threaten others around them.

No. Smokers should be restricted in where they can smoke. They should not be able to dictate where no smokers can go.

I'd like to add something t... (Below threshold)

I'd like to add something that surprisingly hasn't yet been said. The point is made by non-smokers that apparently not enough people are willing to advocate for non-smoking to convince restaurants to be completely non-smoking. To them I say, how did you get enough people to support legislative bans on smoking in restaurants?

Politicians only do what is politically safe. In this world, smokers have been marginalized to the point where they have no political power. It is *safe* to restrict them. At the same time, it is now safe for businesses to ban them voluntarily.

Here in Georgia, we recently passed a non-smoking bill that said if the establishment allows children to enter, smoking must be banned. But in the months leading up to that, I visited a large number of good restaurants that were smoke-free. And they were smoke free voluntarily. A few of the restaurants had glassed-in bar areas where smoking was allowed, but as a non-smoker I never smelled smoke escaping those areas.

Always remember one thing about politicians. They'll go with the flow, and then take credit for the flow.

The laws were the result of... (Below threshold)

The laws were the result of political pressure by non-smokers, all right. Because the restaurants wouldn't do anything about the smoking. I kind of explained it in my comment above. They might pay lip service to a "non-smoking" section, but the sections were always ineffective. They wanted to have both smokers and non-smokers, to the point where if the non-smokers ever wanted to go out to eat, they had to resign themselves to putting up with smoking. I won't argue with the economics of what the resturants did, but just because it's good business doesn't mean you should do it.

Pro Cynic,My point... (Below threshold)

Pro Cynic,

My point is that maybe California's initial ban was helpful, because that was a signal to the rest of the country that banning smoking entirely was economically feasible (economically beneficial even, from what I understand) for a restaurant. But what's the excuse of other states, now that this signal has been sent?

As I mentioned, here in Georgia the restaurants were ALREADY DOING IT ON THEIR OWN, but then the legislators decided to step in and force those who weren't doing it to start. It wasn't even a matter of competition, because the smoke-free restaurants were doing just fine compared to those who still allowed smoking. It was just a way to step in and look like the legislature was doing something.

Brad,I'll have to ... (Below threshold)


I'll have to defer to your experience there, because mine in Indiana is very different. The number of non-smoking restaurants in Indianapolis up until the City County Council smoking ban went into effect at the beginning of this month was approximately the same as the number of patriotic George Clooney films.

[email protected] sean nyc/aa<... (Below threshold)


@ sean nyc/aa

Why do conservatives think US gov'ts (local, state, and federal) should butt out of our lives and the less they do the better, yet think the a gov't formed in the wake of an invasion is capable of improving the lives of Iraqis?

Are you an imbecile?

Pro Cynic,I do rea... (Below threshold)

Pro Cynic,

I do realize Indiana is a bit behind the times, they don't call it "The Crossroads of America" because people actually want to stay there.... Have they actually figured out daylight savings time yet?

LOL, just kidding with ya. I spent 4 1/2 years there as a Boilermaker :-)

Brad,You're taling... (Below threshold)


You're taling to an Ohio State Buckeye trapped in Indiana, but I do respect Purdue -- and share its opinion of IU, even though is was from IU that I got my law degree.

Actually, we finally passed DST last year. Start observing EDT in April, but the Dems are going to try to use it as an issue against the GOP this fall. Either should have kept it the same or gone on Central time, even though the feds will not allow us to move to the Central Time Zone and it would be stupid to do so anyway. But the Dems are quite happy to do nothing for Indiana and get elected.

I had heard you finally pas... (Below threshold)

I had heard you finally passed DST, but I wasn't sure when it was supposed to take effect. You did settle on Eastern time though? Will that also be include the folks up in "the region"?

But as for Indiana politics, I'd like to think that the smart folks from Purdue all leave Indiana, while the IU grads stick around to govern. I see Purdue stickers all over the country, but you don't see many IU stickers outside Indiana :-)

I think you are correct, Br... (Below threshold)

I think you are correct, Brad, about Purdue graduates leaving and IUers staying here. Indiana is hemorrhaging young college graduates at an alarming rate. These people don't seem to understand why. Where to begin?

DST -- Indiana was put in the eastern time zone by the feds. Makes no sense to move us to central when we're bordered on three sides by the eastern time zone. Northwest and southwest Indiana will remain on central time, though the Evansville are has been talking about switching to eastern.

The thing that gets me mad is that the people here who want Eastern time just want to be put on Eastern time. The people who want central time don't just want central time, they want to drag everyone else into central time as well.

I think we should ban old ... (Below threshold)

I think we should ban old ladies from wearing perfume while they ride on the Bus or visit the casino.. it,s very nauseating and offensive to me.. I think i,ll sue them for their late husbands pension,s if theres anything left ? I also dont like some peoples b.o. it makes me feel like death.. let,s see what else ? ohh yeah i dont like Geraldo or Maher or... ..

Bad analogy, Virgo. Perfume... (Below threshold)

Bad analogy, Virgo. Perfume doesn't cause cancer in the people smelling it. Big difference.






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