Banzhaf crosses the line

Is it possible that I’m actually starting to like John Banzhaf? Earlier this week he gave a stirring, if not quite sincere, defense of free enterprise. In a press release issued on Wednesday, his Action on Smoking and Health organization confirmed the warnings of civil libertarians that the anti-smoking movement wouldn’t stop with allegedly reasonable workplace restrictions:

A clear majority wants smoking banned in all homes, even if children are not present, and even if the smoke is not drifting into an adjoining dwelling.

This could expand the latest front in the war to protect nonsmokers, says the man who started the nonsmokers’ movement by getting smoking first restricted and then banned on airplanes and then in workplaces and public places, and who is racking up victories in the battle to ban smoking in private dwellings and cars…

Since restrictions of smoking are one of the most effective — and virtually the least expensive — way to help smokers quit, it is no surprise that there is growing support for smoking restrictions, even if no nonsmokers’ health is being put at risk by the smoking, suggests Banzhaf.

I’ve suggested before that despite all the recent victories for the anti-smoking lobby, its increasingly untenable claims and restrictive proposals will open the door to blowback. Kudos to Banzhaf for helping to make my prediction a reality!

Physician Michael Siegel, with whom I disagree about workplace smoking bans but respect for his conscience and devotion to sound science, also thinks that this is a bad day for tobacco control advocates:

I must also say that ASH is making the pronouncements of smoking ban opponents look good. Many years ago, when I was lobbying for smoke-free workplace laws, opponents of these laws argued that this was just the first step: workplaces were the first step and eventually we [the antis] would be trying to get smoking banned in the home. I countered these arguments by stating no – you’re wrong – we are going to stop after getting smoking banned in the workplace. Unfortunately, it looks like I was wrong and the smoking ban opponents were correct. Thanks to ASH, all those smoking ban opponents can now say “I told you so.”

Read his entire post here.

Please do smoke, if you like
A malodorous anniversary


14 thoughts on “Banzhaf crosses the line”

  1. Despite these rumors of nationwide, absolute smoking bans, I have yet to see them actually instituted.

    Even if one was (which I would oppose, by the way), I don’t see how its existence would validate your opposition to smoking bans in the workplace. But then, I’m not a fan of slippery slope arguments.

  2. There are plenty of stronger reasons to be against workplace smoking bans than just the slippery slope argument, which I’ve covered many times here before.

    That said, the slippery slope argument is looking pretty good right now, given the proliferation of residential and outdoor smoking bans currently making their way around the world.

    Good to see you commenting again, btw. What happened, your job finally got boring?

  3. If I’m going to be working late on a Friday, I’m certainly going to take breaks here and there to comment.

    I hear your other reasons, but in re the slippery slope, I trust that people are intelligent enough to resist unreasonable extensions of good laws. When Cincinnati outlaws smoking in the home, I’ll reconsider.

  4. A clear majority want smoking bans in all homes??
    You clean up your back-yard before you start cleaning anybody else’s back-yard.
    The clear majority are non-smokers who should mind their own business. You mind your own business and you won’t be minding mine.
    I don’t tell you what to do in your own home and you won’t be telling me what to do in my own home.

  5. “Protect the non-smokers”??
    Protect them from what??

    Smoke from tobacco is a statistically insignificant health risk.

  6. >>Hitler had a smoking ban<<

    Can’t argue with that. Where do I sign up to donate for the cause, Jacob?

  7. An alternative to smoke-free venues

    There has never been a single study showing that exposure to the low levels
    of smoke found in bars and restaurants with decent modern ventilation and
    filtration systems kills or harms anyone.

    As to the annoyance of smoking, a compromise between smokers and non-smokers
    can be reached, through setting a quality standard and the use of modern
    ventilation technology.

    Air ventilation can easily create a comfortable environment that removes not
    just passive smoke, but also and especially the potentially serious
    contaminants that are independent from smoking.

  8. Wow, Thomas, kind of strange to condemn smoking ban supporters for not having any research to support their claims, but then claiming that some sort of super air ventilation system can “easily create a comfortable environment” without citing any proof for it.

    Also, here’s just one study of the many that proves that exposure to smoke in bars harms people. The power of Google!

  9. I’m possibly willing to give some ground to the health advocates in terms of workplace smoking (not really, but at least they have understandable and defensible position). But is there any real logic behind a home ban?

    Also, is there really any movement towards a ban on in-home smoking? This seems like a boogieman with no boogie. I’m not familiar with any real, large scale movements that are actually calling for this, I suspect the anti-ban folks are exaggerating the threat to win some on-the-fence converts.

  10. I don’t tell you what to do in your own home and you won’t be telling me what to do in my own home.

    Fair enough Thomas. You can now tell ban-proponents what to do in their own homes.

  11. Government power the real health hazard

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

    Indeed, the bans themselves 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 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
    attempting to protect people from an unwanted intrusion on their health, the
    tobacco 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 obviously
    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. Cigarette
    smokers are a numerical minority, practicing 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 systematic and unlimited
    intrusion of government into our lives.

    We do not elect officials to control and manipulate our behaviour.

  12. Godwin in 4. Very impressive.

    Workplaces will ban smoking on their own if they choose if/when it becomes a problem and don’t need government doing it for them.

    The idea of banning smoking inside private homes is just scary.

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