Saying hello to my new Oregon neighbors

I’m in the Oregonian today, calling BS on the idea that our upcoming statewide smoking ban is motivated by an interest in saving workers’ lives. If the response is anything like that to my previous anti-ban column, there’s a lot of hate mail and nasty comments headed this way and to the Oregonian website. That’s fine, I’m happy to receive criticism. But before you hit send, make sure you’re not saying what we’ve all heard many times before:

Secondhand tobacco smoke is dangerous! — I agree. Chronic, extended exposure to environmental tobacco smoke has been shown to correlate with moderately greater health risks. But if you think the guy smoking next to you in a restaurant is shaving years off your life, you’re going way beyond what’s scientifically plausible.

Smoking shouldn’t be allowed in public buildings! — I agree. Courthouses, public hospitals, police stations, and similar places could all justifiably ban smoking. You could even make a case for banning smoking on common carriers like railroads and buses. But a privately owned bar? That’s a competitive business, not a public building. If you don’t like the atmosphere you don’t have to go.

Smoking bans are just like any other workplace safety regulation! — Most safety regulations don’t ban jobs entirely, as we’re now banning working in a smoke-friendly bar. Nor do we need to protect bar workers from hidden risks; if anything, the dangers of secondhand smoke are exaggerated. Given the high rates of turnover in the hospitality industry, there’s no reason employees can’t decide for themselves whether to keep working in smoke-filled rooms.

Smokers can just step outside — In the Oregon winter? Cigarette smokers, maybe. Pipe and cigar smokers? Not my idea of high fun. For many of us, bartenders included, the ban will kill a bar culture we know and love. Besides, you’re just going to ban it outside next (see Boston, San Luis Obispo, Calabasas, Belmont, etc.).

I shouldn’t have to suffer smokers when I go out! — Then go to places that don’t allow smoking. Or, as I mentioned in the column, pass legislation that’s less restrictive than the ban but that would still encourage businesses to go smokefree. Shouldn’t smokers have places to go too?

But the one place I really want to go allows smoking! — Yeah, that sucks. Try complaining to the management. If enough people say something they might change their policy. Or maybe they won’t. Remember, the world doesn’t revolve around you. (Unless you’re William Shatner, in which case the world does revolve around you, and can I have your autograph?)

Smoking has made you bald! — Uh, no. That’s just some unfortunate photo cropping on the Oregonian website. My mane’s still doing pretty well, thank you.

Got something to add that’s not on the list? Now you can hit send.

Comments

  1. Chad says:

    The comments on your article so far are surprisingly honest. My favorites:

    “Health reasons be damned – nobody in thier right mind will miss the stench, and if that is the only reason for the ban – all the power!” Same commenter: “So, welcome to Oregon. We’re progressive here. Don’t ruin it.”

    “I support the statewide smoking ban, but not because I want to protect bartenders and other employees. I support it because I want to listen to and see live music in a non-smoking environment. I agree that smokers are an increasingly unpopular minority, but they deserve it.”

    For the most part, in Virginia smoking ban proponents are still absurdly dishonest, repeating the same patently false arguments about wanting to protect the workers or believing that limited secondhand smoke exposure creates conclusive and irreversible negative health affects. Nice to see that you now live in a state whose citizens don’t beat around the bush.

    In the Progressive State you, my friend, are a leper, and people do not care about your opinion. If you keep going with this persecuted minority argument, you will be run out of town for your insolence. Portland is less than a year away from breaking out the fire hoses on you and your sorry kind. It’s not about your rights, or the rights of businesses, or the rights of workers. It’s about the fact that people don’t like to smell like smoke and they don’t like you for telling them they can’t use the law to boss around the owners of their favorite bars and restaurants. And the good people of your city are clear on that point.

    This is the opinion I’ve formed in my trips to Portland: it’s a city that certain kinds of people found attractive for its tolerance, and after moving there, made it perhaps the most intolerant city to dissent of any I’ve visited. Have a great time.

  2. John Dumas says:

    I read, understood and totally agreed with your Oregonian blurb. So you need not repeat it or rephrase any part of it in answering the following two questions:

    1. Do you smoke? (Yes/No – I have a brain so I don’t need an explanation.)

    2. Why do you suppose smokers are an “unpopular minority”?

  3. Freddy says:

    OF COURSE first and second-hand smoke is dangerous!! Using logical fallacies, and made-up statistics from the AEI or elsewhere is dispicable, and to try to say otherwise is dishonest and misleading.

    If smokers really feel the need to kill themselves, they can do it in the privacy of their own homes, or in the street – after all, no one can tell them what to do there, and they won’t be negatively impacting anyone else’s wellbeing.

    This ban has been a long time in coming, and we don’t need some out-of-town newbie telling us why it’s wrong. If you don’t like it, go back to wherever you came from.

  4. Jacob Grier says:

    Chad — Great comment!

    John — Thanks. I smoke an occasional cigar or pipe. I think the main reason smokers are now so unpopular is that non-smokers are strongly in the majority. Stretching the scientific findings about secondhand smoke lets them use public health arguments to make them feel good about abusing the smoking minority.

    Freddy — You have failed. Read the post and try again.

  5. Lynn Harold Asher says:

    Thank you for your insight and perspective on the Oregon smoking ban. I have been a smoker for over sixty years, with no known ill effects: no cough, no wheezing, my lungs are clear, according to x-rays. Of course I can’t run a mile without gasping for air but then I am 75 years old. Talk about the power of suggestion. I have to go and light up now. Screw the do-gooders.

  6. Matt says:

    Jacob -

    Just one little comment here from me. I think you’re being a bit disengenious when you write, “Most safety regulations don’t ban jobs entirely, as we’re now banning working in a smoke-friendly bar.”

    Because that’s not really banning a job entirely, it’s banning a job in a certain setting. And that’s exactly what other workplace regulations do. If we ban a hazardous chemical from being used in the production of some good then we’d be “entirely banning working in a hazardous chemical-friendly plant”. We can place any workplace restriction into the same kind of setup you’ve laid out here.

    If you want to distinguish smoking bans from other workplace safety issues, I think the best way to do it is to stick to the exaggerated health risk point.

  7. Jacob Grier says:

    I see your point, but I don’t think it’s a tenable distinction. In some bars smoking is more incidental than others, but in many of them the ability to smoke is an essential part of the appeal for both the customer and the bartender. There’s an active market defined largely by the desire to be in a smoke-friendly establishment, so by banning those you do eliminate one kind of bartending job. But I agree, it’s a matter of semantics.

  8. Thomas Gravon says:

    Hey there,
    Read your op ed piece in Tues’ Big O. As a native (read: born in) Oregonian, who has lived here all my life, and as a non smoker, my suggestion is that if you don’t like the situation vis: smoking ban in bars, hie your whiney ass back to Virginia (Big Tobacco state), where you came from.
    I’m actually looking forward to being able to go to a bar and listen to music w/o exiting reeking of tobacco and having to then go home, strip my clothes off and shower afterward. That’s in addition to not having to endure the actual smoke in my lungs, windpipe, and eyes.
    Wake up and smell the coffee, guy. Tobacco smoking is a declining activity (only approx 18% of the opoulation), and will only diminish as the majority of the population who DOESN’T smoke asserts our rights to be free of this contamination.
    Just because it’s been “tradition” to smoke in bars doesn’t make it “right”. Things change.
    And lest you think I’m a total Luddite, I happen to agree that Oregon should allow self serve gas pumping.
    I also know that the Coast Guard and ODFW are working on plans to increase safety in the Dungeness crabbing industry (I live in Newport, the center of the largest crab fishery in the lower 48 states, and was a marine carpenter on the fleet for over 5 years, so I am personally acquainted w/many fishermen, and was w/some who have perished at sea).
    Those issues notwithstanding, tobacco abuse is still a relevant health and safety issue, whether YOU care about your personal safety, or not. And BTW, I’m a recovering addict, and as such, a teetotaler, so I prolly WON’T be giving you a tip. LOL.
    Good luck on your trip back to Virginia, we really don’t need your pissy attitude here, it’s folks like you, thinking you’re so hip, that have in large part diluted what’s good about Oregon.
    Good bye, bud.

  9. Matt says:

    I gotta say, there are few things that bother me more than ostensibly open-minded people refusing to listen to dissent. I empathize Jacob. I disagree, but I empathize.

  10. James says:

    more important might be the long term effect of the prohibition of a large swathe of public place social smoking – much as the effects of (alchohol) Prohibition were largely unanticipated; in every society and culture the anti-smoking effect will likely be much more significant that any legislator, or commentator, can foresee.

  11. Brandon says:

    Dear Thomas Gravon,
    If you don’t like the way Oregonians pump gas (or don’t pump gas?), why don’t you move the hell out of the state and stop whining? I think you should move to Texas (a big oil state) and keep your flippin’ mouth shut.

    Your bud,
    Brandon

  12. steve morris says:

    Three-year study came out today that the city of Pueblo, Colorado, had a 41% decline in heart attack hospitalizations due to the smoking ban there. This would dispute your claim that breathing someone else’s second-hand smoke in a restaurant may be shaving years off one’s life. The truth is you don’t know how much time is shaved off one’s life; it may be years, it may be seconds, but the point is that time is still shaved off one’s life. So your contention that smoking restrictions pretend to save lives is just shrouded in smoke. As much as you don’t want to admit it, a smoking ban will save lives and let all of us, including you, live longer. Also, you say to us not to do business in places that allow smoking. Well my suggestion to you is that you move to a state that allows smoking so you can kill yourself and not take any of us along with you. I’m 61 years old, I’d like to live to 101, but I’ll never be able to do that if people like you have any say in the matter.

  13. John Schultz says:

    Steve, please look further into that bogus Pueblo smoking ban study before you believe what it says. Dr. Michael Siegel, a tobacco researcher who has been ostracized by the tobacco control movement for pointing out inaccuracies in their stances, argues rather persuasively that it comes from a very small sample size due to not many heart attacks occuring during the study period. The study also does not account for gradual decreases in heart attack rates, nor does it explain a large dip a few years prior to the smoking ban. There are several more studies that have come out with similar problems, such as the recent one-year Ireland study.

    As someone who fought a local citywide smoking ban, it is my opinion that ban advocates play loose and fast with these studies to justify their positions. Argue that it is unsafe, unclean, and not liked by many people, fine with me. But start twisting bad research to your end, basically lieing to people, is something that I find reprehensible.

  14. Brandon says:

    Dear Steve Morris,

    Does that study’s findings hold true if people don’t go to establishments that allow smoking? Or only if people voluntarily subject themselves to secondhand smoke?

    Either way, I’m with you all the way. I also think we should ban cheese, fake zippers, and most types of dancing (pretty much everything but the Charleston).

    I like you, Steve. We should get together for a glass of ice water and some cheeseless sandwiches once we finish banning everything we don’t like.

    Curmudgeonly yours,
    Brandon

  15. Jacob Grier says:

    Damn it, I hate the Charleston. The Macarena is where it’s at.

    For the record, there is a new version of the Pueblo study:
    http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5751a1.htm

    I haven’t had a chance to go over it thoroughly, but it seems to suffer some of the same problems as the original.

  16. steve morris says:

    It absolutely amazes me how anyone can condone smoking anywhere. The problem is, smoking is an addiction and people who smoke are too feeble and weak minded to quit smoking. What most of those people who have tried to quit but can’t have learned is that they can’t quit because they simply don’t have the guts and willpower to quit permanently. I’m 61, I want to live to at least 101, and I damn well don’t want to breathe anyone’s secondhand smoke anywhere which can lessen my lifespan. If you don’t like the nonsmoking laws, get out. Go live in a state where you can happily smoke yourself to death. Can you take a hint: Oregon ain’t the place for you.

  17. Thomas Gravon says:

    Hey, Brandon,
    I’m OK w/the gasoline situation the way it is, too. It provides employment for folks. However, I can see the advantages of self serve, too. That aside, I’m a native Oregonian (guess you missed that in my first post…) and have no plans to move out of the state I’ve lived in all my life, the same state so many folks seem to want to move to.
    Also, I see from closer inspection of Grier’s blog issues that he’s a right winger, working for the R’s and writing for the Wash Times. Typical. His rant against the smoking ban reeks of smoker’s resentment. Or, perhaps, it’s just misplaced “libertarianism”, ie the idea of big government meddling in people’s lives.
    Tell that to the social conservatives who want to prevent women from having control of their own reproductive choices.
    You conservatives had better get your shit together, your “base” (in Arabic, Al Quaeda translates as: The Base”) is slipping and people are tiring of your divisive and negative politics.

  18. Thomas Gravon says:

    PS
    BTW, I don’t need a study of second-hand smoke effects to know that when I hang out in a room full of smoke that my throat gets swollen and scratchy, my breathing is impaired, my eyes swell ans burn, and that my hair, skin, and clothes become saturated w/tobacco oil from the smoke in the air.
    Nicotine is a poison, and as such needs to be regulated. Of course, “regulation” doesn’t sit well w/the Friedmaniacs, the acolytes of Milton Friedman and his doctrine of shock economics. You know, the Nobel Prize winning economist who set up the economic system for Augusto Pinochet….The same system of deregulation that has now brought our country to economic ruin, thereby discrediting itself.
    I have as much right to enjoy music in a night club as anyone else. That venue shouldn’t be segregated exclusively for smokers. Anyone who works in such a venue and who doesn’t smoke has the same right to an unpolluted atmosphere. The legislature has spoken, if you all don’t like it, get your Rep of Senator to intro a bill to change it back (or, I guess, go on back to the conservative enclave from whence you came). LOL, good luck, and sour grapes.

  19. Jacob Grier says:

    Thomas — I wrote one letter to the editor of the Washington Times, have never worked for the Republicans, and am generally an anti-interventionist on foreign policy. You’re 0 for 3. But if your only knowledge of Milton Friedman comes from reading Naomi Klein, it’s not surprising you’d let some unfounded assumptions creep into your comments.

    So far we’ve heard from you that you dismiss opinions from people who aren’t native Oregonians and who don’t share your ideology. If you’re going to keep commenting here, you might try being a little more open-minded and engaging with the arguments instead of making petty ad hominem attacks.

  20. Thomas Gravon says:

    I’m not dismissing you because you’re from elsewhere,except as you came to a state that already had legislation in place to restrict tobacco use. You continue to complain about something that’s a fait accompli. Instead of complaining on a blog, for pity’s sake, get back in the political fray and try to get it changed. Good luck. This legislation was a long time in coming, and necessary. Like I said, I detect smoker’s resentment. That’s the germ of my critique.
    And, I’ve had enough time to consider the issue of tobacco pollution to come to a conclusion, and don’t need to be “open minded” about something I’ve already decided, with much information and opinion from a variety of sources. You’re just pissed cause you can’t get your own way. Sad situation.

  21. Chad says:

    It always amazes me how arguments made about smoking bans after they’ve passed very predictably devolve into some sort of referendum on smoking itself which, as Jacob points out, do not in any way resemble the arguments made in order to get the bans passed.

    I despise smoking. I don’t like the way it smells, I don’t like the way it stays on my clothes, it makes me noxious when smoke drifts my way while I’m eating, and depending on the agenda of the group that released the latest press release I could lose anywhere from .000000001 minutes of my life with 20 years of prolonged exposure to 150 years of my life with 4 seconds of exposure. I’ve never smoked anything in my life, and I probably never will. For all of those reasons, I am very thankful for all the new restaurants and bars opening up in my area that have voluntarily chosen to be nonsmoking, and I happily patronize these establishments and encourage my friends to do the same when we hang out.

    But occasionally my friends decide on a restaurant or bar whose owner has chosen to allow smoking, sometimes because my friends want to smoke but mostly because they like the atmosphere the owner has elected to cultivate. And I am then faced with a choice: do I want to voluntarily subject myself to smoke in order to associate with my smoking friends, or do I want to sit this one out? I usually choose to hang out with my friends, and occasionally I don’t, but either way I don’t complain because I’m a big boy who owns his choices.

    I’ll tell you what never crosses my mind: choosing to lobby the city council or state legislature to remove the ability of the business owner or my friends to make that choice for themselves. This never crosses my mind because I believe that making choices about things such as which bar or restaurant to patronize is part of being a big boy, and because it would be awfully arrogant of me to believe myself entitled to the atmosphere of my choice, voiding the choices other customers have made, whenever I want to patronize an establishment. Sometimes people even have really hard choices, like searching for a job and having to decide whether to apply for a vacant position in a smoking establishment. The fact that a choice is hard, or that it entails some level of risk assessment, does not in and of itself warrant prohibiting the opportunity for free-thinking adults to weigh that choice for themselves — which is what leads smoking ban opponents to believe there are bait-and-switch motives at play.

    As to the actual point of Jacob’s article, I’d just like to see the legislature propose an honest bill: just call it the “Nonsmokers Hate Smoke” bill and say it’s because nonsmokers don’t like smoke and/or smokers. Then maybe there will be a real discussion about the actual health risks as compared to other legal activities. Better still, maybe there will be a real discussion about whether we ought to just ban whatever we don’t like to be around and can acquire the political clout to get rid of. But I don’t expect many ban proponents to support my idea, considering the existing “just say whatever gets my preferences passed” method seems to be getting them pretty good results.

    If anyone is planning to ignore all my arguments in favor of an ad hominem attack, could you please harshly accuse me of being a “choiceist” and sort of sneer, slurring the first word a little, as you say it to yourself?

  22. slackerkeith says:

    @Chad:

    A “Progressive State” that simply doesn’t care about others opinions? That sounds very enlightened …

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