Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Smoking Ban

So, it seems Wisconsin now has a new smoking ban, effective this past Monday, the day past independence day. No longer will people be able to light their own miniature firework in commemoration of American freedom in a bar, restaurant, or hotel. Could this be that this violates the very spirit of freedom which America stands for? Are we becoming the nanny state that McCarthyists feared?

I've brought my non-nicotine-addicted brain cells to bear on this issue, and I'm forced to conclude that the answer is clearly no. We, the People, have not lost the right to smoke. We can still buy, sell, and use tobacco products. We can smoke at home. We can smoke outdoors. We can smoke in designated locations.

What we have lost the right to do is blow smoke in other people's faces in public locations, and bravo to that. After all, if one chooses to inhale smoke into one's lungs, that's one thing. Making other people inhale your smoke afterward is quite another. And although the data on second hand smoke isn't statistically significant, it's still damned annoying. The right to swing one's fists ends with someone else's nose. The right to inhale smoke ends with forcing someone else to breathe it.

Ah, but according to the Journal-Sentinel, many are protesting the smoking ban because it removes the ambiance of certain establishments. One band is quoted as saying that there's just something to the smoky atmosphere of a live gig in a bar. It's part of the mystique of being a rocker.

I say, that's what fog machines are for.

The owner of Landmark Lanes claims that the lack of smoky atmosphere will rob him not only of ambiance, but of customers, and that it will cost him his business.

I say, he'll recoup his losses by not having to clean off the nicotine stains from the brightwork.

Actually, Landmark will begin putting out tables and chairs for those who wish to smoke outside on the sidewalk. This should prove interesting, since that's the central avenue for the biggest annoyance on Milwaukee's East Side. No, not cigarette smoke -- hobos. They're thick along Farwell, and they'll target everyone who's smoking outside. Not just outside Landmark, but all the bars and taverns which now must have smoking outdoors on the sidewalks where the bums regularly patrol.

This could get interesting!

Either the hobos will finally get cleaned off the streets as thousands of pissed off smokers force Milwaukee police to finally do something about them, or thousands of smokers will finally quit.

Yeah, fat chance on either of those.

What makes this interesting for me, as a non-smoker, is that this happened so soon after an increase in cigarette taxes which was supposed to pay for so many things in the State budget. Either this hasn't generated the revenues expected, or the State Legislature expects to raise taxes some other way. Or both. Get ready for it. We'll face another huge budget shortfall, and since it's always easier to raise a limited tax than it is to cut an entrenched entitlement, something else will get taxed. And (speaking of taking away American freedoms after the 4th of July) it won't be legalized marijuana, unfortunately for us all.

Yet those who say their freedom is being violated by this ban will continue to whine, completely ignoring the fact that our more important freedoms are being raped by government far more regularly. I've said it before, and it bears repeating, that nicotine really does nothing for you, except get you addicted. It has no redeeming value. It doesn't ease nausea. It doesn't help the symptoms of glaucoma. It doesn't even get you high. So why bother defending it? Why not campaign for that which should be legal anyway instead of fighting over a reasonable limitation of something already legal?

Nah, that would make too much sense!

So, let freedom ring, all you nicotine addicts! You may smoke all you want -- at home.



snowbird said...

Government power the real health hazard

The bandwagon of local smoking bans now steamrolling across the nation has nothing to do with protecting people from the supposed threat of "second-hand" smoke.

Indeed, the bans are symptoms of a far more grievous threat, a cancer that has been spreading for decades and has now metastasized throughout the body politic, spreading even to the tiniest organs of local government. This cancer is the only real hazard involved – the cancer of unlimited government power.

The issue is not whether second-hand smoke is a real danger or is in fact a phantom menace, as a study published recently in the British Medical Journal indicates. The issue is: If it were harmful, what would be the proper reaction? Should anti-tobacco activists satisfy themselves with educating people about the potential danger and allowing them to make their own decisions, or should they seize the power of government and force people to make the "right" decision?

Supporters of local tobacco bans have made their choice. Rather than trying to protect people from an unwanted intrusion on their health, the bans are the unwanted intrusion.

Loudly billed as measures that only affect "public places," they have actually targeted private places: restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shops and offices – places whose owners are free to set anti-smoking rules or whose customers are free to go elsewhere if they don't like the smoke. Some local bans even harass smokers in places where their effect on others is negligible, such as outdoor public parks.

The decision to smoke, or to avoid "second-hand" smoke, is a question to be answered by each individual based on his own values and his own assessment of the risks. This is the same kind of decision free people make regarding every aspect of their lives: how much to spend or invest, whom to befriend or sleep with, whether to go to college or get a job, whether to get married or divorced, and so on.

All of these decisions involve risks; some have demonstrably harmful consequences; most are controversial and invite disapproval from the neighbours. But the individual must be free to make these decisions. He must be free because his life belongs to him, not to his neighbours, and only his own judgment can guide him through it.

Yet when it comes to smoking, this freedom is under attack. Smokers are a numerical minority, practising a habit considered annoying and unpleasant to the majority. So the majority has simply commandeered the power of government and used it to dictate their behaviour.

That is why these bans are far more threatening than the prospect of inhaling a few stray whiffs of tobacco while waiting for a table at your favourite restaurant. The anti-tobacco crusaders point in exaggerated alarm at those wisps of smoke while they unleash the unlimited intrusion of government into our lives. We do not elect officials to control and manipulate our behaviour.

harleyrider1978 said...

’They have created a fear that is based on nothing’’
World-renowned pulmonologist, president of the prestigious Research Institute Necker for the last decade, Professor Philippe Even, now retired, tells us that he’s convinced of the absence of harm from passive smoking. A shocking interview.

What do the studies on passive smoking tell us?

PHILIPPE EVEN. There are about a hundred studies on the issue. First surprise: 40% of them claim a total absence of harmful effects of passive smoking on health. The remaining 60% estimate that the cancer risk is multiplied by 0.02 for the most optimistic and by 0.15 for the more pessimistic … compared to a risk multiplied by 10 or 20 for active smoking! It is therefore negligible. Clearly, the harm is either nonexistent, or it is extremely low.

It is an indisputable scientific fact. Anti-tobacco associations report 3 000-6 000 deaths per year in France ...

I am curious to know their sources. No study has ever produced such a result.

Many experts argue that passive smoking is also responsible for cardiovascular disease and other asthma attacks. Not you?

They don’t base it on any solid scientific evidence. Take the case of cardiovascular diseases: the four main causes are obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes. To determine whether passive smoking is an aggravating factor, there should be a study on people who have none of these four symptoms. But this was never done. Regarding chronic bronchitis, although the role of active smoking is undeniable, that of passive smoking is yet to be proven. For asthma, it is indeed a contributing factor ... but not greater than pollen!

The purpose of the ban on smoking in public places, however, was to protect non-smokers. It was thus based on nothing?

Absolutely nothing! The psychosis began with the publication of a report by the IARC, International Agency for Research on Cancer, which depends on the WHO (Editor's note: World Health Organization). The report released in 2002 says it is now proven that passive smoking carries serious health risks, but without showing the evidence. Where are the data? What was the methodology? It's everything but a scientific approach. It was creating fear that is not based on anything.

Why would anti-tobacco organizations wave a threat that does not exist?

The anti-smoking campaigns and higher cigarette prices having failed, they had to find a new way to lower the number of smokers. By waving the threat of passive smoking, they found a tool that really works: social pressure. In good faith, non-smokers felt in danger and started to stand up against smokers. As a result, passive smoking has become a public health problem, paving the way for the Evin Law and the decree banning smoking in public places. The cause may be good, but I do not think it is good to legislate on a lie. And the worst part is that it does not work: since the entry into force of the decree, cigarette sales are rising again.

Why not speak up earlier?

As a civil servant, dean of the largest medical faculty in France, I was held to confidentiality. If I had deviated from official positions, I would have had to pay the consequences. Today, I am a free man.

Le Parisien

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