Thursday, November 10, 2005

Freedom Up In Smoke

I'm incredibly disappointed that I-901, the state anti-smoking initiative, passed by such a wide margin. (Unlike California or NYC, you can't even smoke on the sidewalk in front of the bar within 25 feet.) This is another blow to concepts like personal property rights and individual responsibility, and a win for the nanny state. I'm not a smoker. I've never smoked a cigarette in my life. I don't like the way my clothes smell after a night in a dive bar. But then, no one has ever held a gun to my head to make me go to a dive bar.

I don't buy that employees have no choice, either. I would bet any amount of money that if you only let vote bar employees and waiters/waitresses who work at the few restaurants left that allow you to smoke, the ban would fail miserably. This would be especially true if people actually knew the facts - that no study has ever shown any significant causal connection between ill health effects and second hand smoke.

The worst, though, are these latest TV spots - the ones with the scary puppet kids who eat dead, maggot-ridden roadkill and then try to make out with another scary puppet. "Kissing a smoker is just as gross." I've kissed smokers before. And while I've never shoved a dead crow in my cake-hole, I can tell you which I think is more disgusting by a factor of a bajillion.

When you lie to 11-14 year olds about this kind of thing (their target audience) they won't believe ANYTHING adults tell them about drugs, alcohol, or any other thing that really can harm them. And who's paying for it? We are, of course, from the unconscionable billions extorted from the tobacco companies by our current Governor that was supposed to go to offset the harm already caused to our health care system caused by RJ Reynolds' lies. It's ironic (but not surprising) that the people most self righteous about the tobacco companies' lies are so willing to do it themselves - and at our expense.

Smoking is a choice. Anyone who started after about 1950 and still didn't know it was bad for you is so stupid that they probably would have won a Darwin Award anyway. For the rest of 'em, they're exercising their right to control their own bodies and own risks as a free adult should, and any attempt to control that should be met with universal scorn in a free society.


PubliusRex said...

While this is a sad development, the entire basis of representative gov't is people surrendering individual freedom for a bit of security. This is not particularly different.

Orrin Johnson said...

There's no security interest - this is pure imposition. And I hope the first dive bar to close sues the state for compensation for a regulatory taking.

PubliusRex said...

"Health" is a security interest. But I agree...the ban is a terrible idea. I hope it is repealed.

Cato said...

I hate those new smoking ads, so much. Obnoxious ads directed at smokers are bad enough. But these ads seem to be specifically geared to socially ostracize smokers. If the regular anti-smoking ads are like going up to a smoker and telling him he's doing something unhealthful and should stop, these ads are like going up to the smoker's girlfriend and telling her to dump him.

I'm sure it's effective, but it's also mean. And one of the things I like about Washington is that we generally try to avoid being mean, even if it is effective.

UWLawschoolhunk99 said...

While I am generally opposed to this sort of mandatory imposition I would argue that this is not interfering with a fundamental right. In theory this is a bad idea but in practice it makes my lunchtime more enjoyable because the smokers will be forced to stand further away from the law school. I hate feeling like I am eating in an ashtray. There may be a need for a mandatory imposition of this sort of ban so that smokers will stand far enough away from the building so as to preserve the non-smoking environment of the building. There is not much difference in smoking in a building and smoking RIGHT outside the door to a building. I am sick of smelling smoke in non-smoking buildings.

SirWhoopass said...

[Full disclosure- I've never smoked a cigarette in my life. Not even a drunk after-bar smoke. I think they're nasty.]

The issue of workers in establishments that allow smoking could be solved in a consistant, legal, and logical way.

Allow OSHA to conduct needed studies, and then set standards. OSHA mandates exposure levels and/or required protective equipment for countless hazards that are far worse than cigarette smoke.

Of course, the fact is that the anti-smoking zealots would never allow such a thing to occur. That is because it would destroy their lie that a single whiff of second-hand smoke causes enormous irreparable harm.

curious said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
curious said...

Wow, Orrin, how gullible are you? Just because you can find a conspiracy theorist to say something on a website doesn't mean it's true.

Regular exposure to second-hand smoke causes about a 20% increase in coronary heart disease, 30% increase if exposed to 20 or more cigarettes a day (New England Journal of Medicine, Vol 340:920-926; a fairly reputable source). Is that a risk you're willing to take, and that bar workers should have to take? I'm not saying it should or shouldn't be, just that blatant lies like "no study has ever shown any significant causal connection between ill health effects and second hand smoke" do not help your cause.

PubliusRex said...

Did the New England Journal say "about a 20% increase?"

Without trying to settle the dispute of what is "significant," etc., if you don't want to be around smokers don't work or visit a smoking bar.

What's next, people can't smoke at home because it's child abuse and gets the maid sick?

curious said...

So you don't want the legislature to make laws, you don't want 'the people' to pass initiatives, and you certainly don't want judges to make laws... can anyone make rules? Would you prefer anarchy? (This is a serious question; some people would.)

Oh, but I see you do want judges to make law -- you want a suit for regulatory takings, so the judge can in effect repeal the law himself (or herself).

Don't you just hate those doggone activist judges?

curious said...

The NEJM said "Results: Overall, nonsmokers exposed to environmental smoke had a relative risk of coronary heart disease of 1.25 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.17 to 1.32) as compared with nonsmokers not exposed to smoke. Passive smoking was consistently associated with an increased relative risk of coronary heart disease in cohort studies (relative risk, 1.21; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.14 to 1.30), in case–control studies (relative risk, 1.51; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.26 to 1.81), in men (relative risk, 1.22; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.10 to 1.35), in women (relative risk, 1.24; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.15 to 1.34), and in those exposed to smoking at home (relative risk, 1.17; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.11 to 1.24) or in the workplace (relative risk, 1.11; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.00 to 1.23). A significant dose–response relation was identified, with respective relative risks of 1.23 and 1.31 for nonsmokers who were exposed to the smoke of 1 to 19 cigarettes per day and those who were exposed to the smoke of 20 or more cigarettes per day, as compared with nonsmokers not exposed to smoke (P=0.006 for linear trend)."

Would you like a translation?

PubliusRex said...

Where did I say that I want judges to make law. Personally, I would not prefer anarchy.

Not to burst your bubble, but I have an engineering background, so I'll pass on the translation.

I just think this is a dumb policy. Your study does nothing to dissuade me of that.

Susannah Carr said...

For the sake of accuracy, I think it's important to point out that law creates a presumption that 25 feet is the necessary distance between doors, ventilation ducts, etc. Business owners can rebut the presumption that they need 25 feet in order to protect the public health and safety. Here is the text of the relevant section:

PRESUMPTIVELY REASONABLE DISTANCE. Smoking is prohibited within a presumptively reasonable minimum distance of twenty-five feet from entrances, exits, windows that open, and ventilation intakes that serve an enclosed area where smoking is prohibited so as to ensure that tobacco smoke does not enter the area through entrances, exits, open windows, or other means. Owners, operators, managers, employers, or other persons who own or control a public place or place of employment may seek to rebut the presumption that twenty-five feet is a reasonable 36
minimum distance by making application to the director of the local health department or district in which the public place or place of employment is located. The presumption will be rebutted if the applicant can show by clear and convincing evidence that, given the unique circumstances presented by the location of entrances, exits, windows that open, ventilation intakes, or other factors, smoke will
not infiltrate or reach the entrances, exits, open windows, or ventilation intakes or enter into such public place or place of employment and, therefore, the public health and safety will be adequately protected by a lesser distance.

I think it will be interesting to see what information businesses actually have to present in order to rebut the presumption.

Here is a link to the entire text of the initiative for those who are interested.

Jamila said...

This is not a straight political issue. As a liberal I am also dissappointed in this turn of events and the fact that the vote was not even close.

curious said...

Pardon me, publiusrex, for being unclear, it's orrin johnson who wants activist judges.

Congratulations on your engineering background, publiusrex, and in future don't mock someone for using the word "about".

All I'm saying, in response to orrin johnson's reporting on scientific studies, is that there are clear, well-documented and scientifically uncontroversial risks (there are also some unproven risks, but why go there?). Talk policy without making up facts. It's especially ironic that orrin johnson thinks it's ironic that anti-tobacco advocates are lying after being self-righteous about tobacco companies' lies.

Argue about having choices, argue about how bad a risk has to be before you legislate for it, argue about whatever you want, but try not to make stuff up. I sympathize that there's too much information out there, making it hard to sort out good from bad, but a blog that screams about how "yet another" "junk science" study confirms effects of secondhand smoke has got to raise some red flags. Just a plea for fairness and accuracy in blogging.

Orrin Johnson said...

Your study has three problems - first, it shows a correlation, NOT a causation (despite your earlier assertion). As you know, that's suggestive, but otherwise unhelpful. Second, there's no baseline to establish any significant risk. Third, it doesn't factor in other risk factors, like genetics, exposure to other agents, etc.

But even assuming it does, it's irrelevant because it's 100% avoidable. The difference between us is that I think individual adults are just that, and are capable of making their own decisions and ballancing their own risks, and that they do a better job of it in general than government.

The "lies" I was referring to is the assertion that kissing a smoker is akin to eating wet hairballs. Kiss a smoker. Tell me I'm wrong.

I'll address "activist judges" in a separate post. But regulatory takings doctrines are nothing new.

Let's all remember not to get too snippy - we want to dialogue, and debate, not argue. Especially if you're posting anonynously.

curious said...

Orrin johnson, that was only a portion of the abstract, not the whole study. There were controls for other factors and baseline risk. Other studies examine mechanism (e.g. Am J Med. 2004 116(3):145-50, Exp Biol Med 2002 227(9):823-9). Better yet, just ask your doctor's professional opinion.

Orrin Johnson said...

It's curious that you would cite only the weak part of the abstract. Read more carefully the studies (also from very reputable sources) in the link I provided. And then note that when the EPA tried to classify second hand smoke as a pollutant, it couldn't do it without breaking all of its own rules of investigation and disregarding certain data.

If you think that scientists aren't affected by groupthink, blind faith, and pre-determined opinions just as many lawyers are, think again. But like I said, even if I'm wrong about the science, it doesn't change the argument that it's an undue imposition on personal freedom

And we're all friends here. Just call me Orrin.

curious said...

I quoted the "Results" section of the abstract, which would seem to be the most relevent section. I'm not sure why you call it the "weak" part. The abstract is just a summary, and the rest of the article explains more fully. The other citations, mentioned in a later post, are to other articles, which investigated mechanism, while the first citation was to a study which showed the effect without addressing the mechanism. They are three distinct articles.