Thursday, August 11, 2005

Smokefree - Subverted

I had some downtime at work, so in about 10, 15 minutes, I whipped up this letter to my city council. It's incredibly easy now that this well-funded, well-organized cabal of anti-smoking activists is starting to worry that support for the recently enacted smoking ban is evaporating. They provided this web portal that automatically faxes all 15 council members, the Mayor, and a few other parties. Man, this was fun to write, and get off my chest. I wonder if it will be persuasive? I'm already wishing I had been more specific, naming the studies (and court decisions!) that have thrown out virtually all the studies people cite to justify banning smoking on the grounds of a supposed link between second-hand smoke and disease.

For a short time, my letter was posted with all the others they've received here. But it's already been taken down, I noticed. So out of the 196 letters in support they've received (mostly from templates and talking points), I wonder how many other opponents of the smoking ban have done what I did?


I am a graduate student that University of Wisconsin. Madison has been my home now for more than two years, and I will probably live here for a minimum of another four. (With any luck, UW will hire me when I finish my degree, so I can stay in this beautiful city for even longer.)

Recently, the Madison City Council made a horrible mistake. It gambled with the city's economic prosperity on the basis of shoddy science and an ideology of paternalism by passing a smoking ban. Without reviewing the most recent studies, which demonstrate that the risks of second hand smoke to customers and workers is negliable, or even studying the possible economic effects to bar-owners, it unwisely passed this law restricting private property rights and the freedom of peaceful assembly.

You have by now already heard of some of the effects. Bowling alleys have lost entire league memberships to bowling alleys in subburbs, and those bars and taverns not in the inner city have seen their customer base relocate to subburbs. The littering of cigarette butts has increased, and some have already raised the question of what environmental effects could be caused by countless many butts finding their way to lake runoff.

While the economic impacts of this law should be sufficient enough to warrent a reconsideration of this law, the most fundamental reason to repeal the ban is liberty. At the end of the day, all laws and regulations must protect and enhance the liberty of the individual, and any law, no matter what its economic impacts, is unjust when it trespasses upon the individual. Smoking, though an unhealty activity, is still legal, and in bars, would be a protectable freedom of assembly.

This should not matter, but for what it is worth, I am a non-smoker. While I occasionally have visited smoking bars with friends who smoke, I enjoy going to places that have practiced voluntary bans, like Dotty Dumpling's, the Crave and the Ratheskellar in the Union. Without a smoking ban, those places lose their niche appeal, so if anything else, you might also consider the economic impact toward places that no longer have anything to distinguish themselves from their competition.

I urge a repeal of the ban. In its place, you may consider instead a ban of smoking in places where children could be present. If your concern is worker health and safety, you may consider establishing an anonymous complaint phone line, that could tip off inspectors to visit specific locations and issue citations for insufficient ventilation. Most people who work in bars, if not themselves smokers, at least have no problem with it, which is why they work in the one sub-sub-category of the hospitality industry that allows it on the job. I believe you find very few complaints, even without any supposed stigma from complaining about second hand smoke. (I can't speak to the motives of council members who supported the ban, but I find it suspicious that if the real concern here was the effect on worker health caused by second hand smoke, that _smokeless_ tobacco was also banned.)

Just as drinking is a risky, unhealthy activity that falls within one's personal liberty, so too is smoking. Given that the science does not support the public health justification of the ban, what's left is the liberty of the individual - which the Council has a moral obligation to respect. Please do the right thing.



Blogger Paul said...

I like your blog. I hope you take a second to check out my niche wheels site, niche wheels It's pretty cool.

Monday, October 24, 2005 3:00:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home