Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A Civilized Chicago (finally).

The city of Chicago is once again contemplating the idea of a smoking ban in all public areas, including bars and clubs. I don't have much hope of it passing, but it would be great. Every single argument against this law just doesn't hold true. If you read the article, the group is trying to compromise with having smoking licenses or a time frame in which you can or can't smoke. Absolutely stupid. There is no room for compromise. I wish Chicago had the cojones to follow the lead of major North American cities (New York, Boston, Toronto, Vancouver and even Madison rep'ing the midwest). But it doesn't. The fact is that there is no big drop off in business to bars/taverns that restauranteurs are afraid of. People will not lose their jobs. What happens is that the people who wish to smoke will get up from the table and go outside. Pretty simple, no? Stocks in Febreeze would plummet. Until this city gets serious about this issue, it will still be living in the dark, smokey ages.


Blogger IlliniPundit said...

I'm against such an ordinance here in Champaign, and I'm a non-smoker. I think the business owners have property rights, and that forcing them to disallow an otherwise perfectly legal behavior infringes on those property rights. If anti-smoking activists can get them to go smoke-free voluntarily, then I'm all for it.

Anonymous Ian said...

Chances are business owners will not do anything voluntarily. There is a long list of establishments that do not adhere to health/building regulations, and they must be FORCED to. Unfortunately, it takes society (by way of the law) to nudge people into doing something that they ought to be doing anyways. Whether it be wearing a seat-belt, or helmet when riding a bike or motorcycle.

Blogger Roy said...

Ian, your logic is spurious at best. Health/building codes and environmental laws are designed to protect people who otherwise do not know they are at risk. By contrast, smoking is a decision whose health risks are very well documented.

Furthermore, your hardline attitude is a little disturbing. Your wholesale disregard of counter points and unwillingness to compromise are not exactly healthy attitudes.

You should also know the history of your own examples. Seat belt and helmet laws were heavily lobbied by insurance companies to improve their bottom line. I'm all for taking care of myself, but I don't think trendy safety measures need to be legislated.

Anonymous ian said...

Roy, my point with health/building codes is that they concern public health. As does smoking in public spaces. Health and building codes pertain to health risks that are well documented as well. All of this to say that the owners of establishments have to be forced (rarely will they be willing to do it voluntarily) to comply with public health issues.

Granted, smoking is an individual choice. Unfortunately, that individual choice affects everyone in a public area.

It may be true that seat belt laws were lobbied by insurance companies. That's inconsequential, because they do save lives, which at the end of the day, is what we're talking about.

As for the "trendy safety measures", I look forward to the day when lung/throat cancer induced by second-hand smoke is not so trendy.

People don't always know what's best for themselves.

Anonymous Jenny said...

I disagree. I think people do know what's best for themselves - you find me anyone - smoker, non-smoker, whatever - who doesn't know the health risks of smoking. Plenty of establishments in Illinois are already voluntarily smoke free. If people want smoke free places to work, eat, drink or hang out in, there's no shortage of them. And to people for whom it's an issue, they already make that choice. I don't see the need for legislation.

As a matter of fact, I think that the only reason kids smoke anymore is because we're spending so much time and effort trying to eliminate it. I say, lay off the restrictions and the taxes, stop making smoking a rebellious thing to do and start treating it like picking your nose - hey gross, but if you want to do it, no one's gonna stop you... it's just a gross thing to do.

I think a lot less pissed off fourteen year olds would be smoking.

Blogger Roy said...

The more you restirict where people can smoke, the more social you make it.

Anonymous ian said...

Roy and Jenny,

I do agree that smoking is primarily a social thing.

The fact remains that smoking rates are declining whilst quitting rates are increasing. The message IS working.

There probably ARE non-smoking establishments in Illinois. However, I don't know of any Bars in Chicago that are smokefree. At least none that I've been to.

I also don't buy the argument that smoking is rebellious behaviour. How can it be rebellious when it's condoned in society? I believe young people start smoking because they are able to associate themselves with an older lifestyle, which is what teenagers always want to be.

I disagree that we need to lower taxes on tobacco. Much like casino's...it's east money! I wish it were higher. A sort of idiot tax. However, I know that it's a complicated issue as higher taxes opens the door to the black market.

In general, my anti-smoking arguments are not based on the social aspects (which are debatable) but rather the health issues, which can not be refuted.

Blogger Roy said...

You are consistently missing the big picture. These government intrusions shouldn't be judged on whether you agree or disagree with this or that social issue. You are opening the door to all kinds of nanny-state laws, and you have yet to take that into consideration. If you don't believe there will be a slippery slope consider this: you yourself used saftey belts and building codes to justify this kind of government power.

Blogger Carl Nyberg said...

Who wins and who loses when an establishment allows smoking?

If you accept that second-hand smoke is a health risk then the non-smoking employees lose.

And the owners win, if you accept the argument that allowing smoking makes business more profitable.

The problem with the current system is that owners get the money but don't pay for the costs.

If there was a market scheme for correcting this, the system would be fairer.

For example, if a business wants to allow smoking it should be required to buy insurance that pays if it's employees develop smoking related illnesses down-the-road.

I expect most businesses would not purchase the insurance, but they ought to have the option.

But the system of allowing the owners to pocket the profit while externalizing the cost seems unfair.

Blogger Carl Nyberg said...

I do agree that too much U.S. politics has decended into using government power to mess with "offensive" people.

The powerful insiders on both the Right and the Left have agreed to make politics a dialogue about social hot button issues to keep more serious policy questions off the agenda.

Anonymous ian said...

I do agree with Carl that there are far more pressing issues at hand.

But with that being said...I just don't see how greater control over smoking will lead to this great "Big Brother" situation. It has not happened in any other country/city that has legislated tough anti-smoking laws. In fact, the cities that have such ordinances in place are perhaps the most progressive. There is no lack of personal rights or freedom.

The vast majority of adults in this country do not smoke (and the majority is increasing every year). Yet, the vast majority of people are subject to risk every day by the carelessness of a few.

My argument remains the same: you can do what you want in your own home. Smoke tobacco, pot, crack, whatever. I don't care. However, the minute you light up in a public area, your individual habit/addiction has become a public health issue. It is the issue of public health that is at the core of this debate, not a nanny-state.

Blogger Carl Nyberg said...

If the desire was to promote public health, shouldn't the gov't invest money in "safe smoking" areas in public venues.

If you ride the "L" you know that CTA employees don't invest much effort in enforcing smoking restrictions.

Instead of having an outright ban, why not have a section of the platform that has increased ventilation and a heater so smokers won't expose others to second-hand smoke?

What conclusion should I draw from not having segregated smoking areas on "L" platforms?

Like various political causes (anti-abortion, flag desecration, anti-gun, anti-gay, etc.) the anti-smoking movement has a strong component of activists feeling angry and directing the anger at some group of people that do things they find offensive.

This anger has root causes that need to be addressed, and smoking isn't the root cause of the anger.

This anger is a big deal. But setting new smoking policies isn't going to address it. Rather it sort of feeds the anger. Constituencies allied with the Dems mess with GOP-leaning constituencies and vice versa.

It's not a healthy form of political discourse for our society.


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