The next step

When you’ve taxed cigarettes into oblivion and banned them in virtually all private businesses, what’s the next step down to the road to total prohibition? Oregon’s got an idea:

Now, if some Oregon lawmakers have their way, buying and smoking cigarettes will be limited to people 21 and older.

Likening tobacco to alcohol is just the latest swipe at smoking by health-conscious legislators. House Bill 2974 gets its first airing today in the House Human Services Committee.

“I was a high school administrator, and I saw students at a very young age have an addiction to tobacco,” says Rep. Betty Komp, D-Woodburn, the chief backer of the proposal.

Her co-sponsor on the bill, Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, wants to take the restriction even further by making the dizzying drug nicotine available by prescription only. […]

Democrats who control the House appear game. “Any policies that reduce teen smoking,” said House Speaker Dave Hunt, D-Gladstone, at a media briefing Tuesday, “are on the table.”

Under Komp’s bill, it would be a violation for anyone younger than 21 to possess tobacco. Anyone caught selling to minors would merit a $100 fine.

Crazy, yes? That’s what we said about telling private business owners they can’t allow smoking among consenting adults on their own property. This is the simply the logical next step of a zealous anti-tobacco movement gone out of control, abetted by ordinary people willing to sacrifice basic freedoms so as not to be annoyed by the smoking minority.

[Via the Stogie Guys’ Twitter feed, a great source for the latest tobacco news.]


Bans across the pond

With several smoking bans just going into effect in the US and debates over proposed bans going on throughout the country, it’s worth revisiting the question of how they impact businesses. (You didn’t really think I was finished with ban posts for the week, did you?) The US has fared decently well thanks to growth in the hospitality industry obscuring the losses in bars that have suffered; whether that will continue in the down economy remains to be seen. The Financial Times‘ Matthew Engel notes that pubs have been hit much harder in the UK and Ireland:

In Britain, where smoking in enclosed public places became totally illegal in 2007, beer sales are down by 10 per cent; analysts attribute half of that to the smoking law. Pubs are now closing at a record rate of 36 a week.

The publicans I talk to (and they have plenty of time to chat these days) have many complaints but the loss of the smokers is top of their list. Some are on the pavement, but most stay at home. Pool tables stand empty; darts leagues wither.

This may not be so noticeable in the cities. The pubs that are closing are mainly small and often rural, precisely the places that are crucial to their communities and that tourist boards witter on about. Big city drinking barns survive; gastropubs may thrive. The inns of Olde England face extinction, killed by the well-meaning.

My own village local is thought likely to go under this year. It is hard to imagine, under current conditions, that more than a handful of traditional pubs – as opposed to thinly disguised restaurants – will be left in the English countryside 10 years hence…

I hardly ever smoked in pubs myself. Nor does anyone else now. They do not drink in them either. Brilliant.

I worry that the same will happen in Oregon, Iowa, Illinois, and other states with far-reaching bans. The urban bars will likely weather the change. The smaller rural and neighborhood bars I’m not so sure of.

As noted here before, Portland’s restaurants are in for a tough season. The end of 2008 was pretty terrible:

Observers can’t remember a worse year for Portland restaurants. In the first two months of 2008, seven restaurants closed, four as part of the implosion of the overextended N.W. Hayden Enterprises. The year ends with the fall of Lucier — the $4 million South Waterfront showcase — ringing in our ears. In between, more than 20 Portland restaurants shut their doors…

“I’ve heard some people say their business has dropped by as much as 40 percent in the last month or so,” says Bill Perry of the Oregon Restaurant Association. “Things weren’t too bad until October — sales were off just 4 percent or so over the year — but then, two or three weeks before the election, things just froze. I’ve never seen anything like this; if we want to avoid a big rut in January, people are going to have to begin spending again.”

Perry says January’s increase in the minimum wage from $7.95 to $8.40 per hour will be another blow, especially in tough times, when raising menu prices could further empty dining rooms. “They really won’t have much choice,” he says, “but to let people go or cut their hours.” […]

Effects ripple through the community. Oregon lost 1,900 restaurant jobs in September and October, and suppliers are left with unpaid bills and dwindling orders.

[Links via Andrew Stuttaford and the excellent Oregon Economics blog, recently recommended by Maureen Ogle.]


Lazy reporting and the Pueblo ban study

The Centers for Disease Control have issued a new report about the impact of the smoking ban in Pueblo, Colorado. The study has the media breathlessly repeating claims that the ban dramatically saves lives. “A smoking ban caused heart attacks to drop by more than 40 percent in one U.S. city and the decrease lasted three years, federal health experts reported Wednesday,” writes Reuters reporter Maggie Fox, who doesn’t bother quoting any dissenting sources. Mary Engle at the LA Times health blog says uncritically that whatever the mechanism behind the fall in heart attacks, “Pueblo’s smoking ban can take the credit.” Bill Scanlon at the Rocky Mountain News throws science to the wind and extrapolates that Colorado will see a statewide “sharp decline” in heart attacks in 2009 — more than two years after its ban went into effect.

I realize times are tough in newsrooms, but there’s no excuse for such biased, lazy reporting. Journalists should treat the claims of ideologically driven anti-smoking groups with just as much skepticism as they would junk science coming from big tobacco companies.

Since the CDC’s report is going to be cited constantly by smoking ban advocates it’s worth taking a look at its methodology and limitations. Fortunately it’s straightforward enough that any moderately intelligent person can understand it. The following is my layman’s reading of the results, with the caveat that I’m approaching this without formal training. Nonetheless, it’s clear that one shouldn’t take this study’s conclusions at face value. Its use by anti-smoking groups, researchers, and the press to promote smoking bans is a case study in the abuse of science for political ends.
Continue reading “Lazy reporting and the Pueblo ban study”


The last smoker

This is a fantastic photo: regulars at the Horse Brass Pub recreate “The Last Supper” with long-haired publican Don Younger filling in for Jesus. There’s no Judas here, just a gathering of loyal friends. Judas would be the Oregonians not pictured because they wouldn’t enter the pub while people smoked there, selling out one of their city’s legendary bar owners so they can drink Don’s beer under their own rules.

[Photo by Aaron Barnard, Vanished Twin Photography, via Willamette Week.]


Speaking of jumping sharks…

It’s too bad Michael Siegel is on vacation right now. I’m sure he’d have some choice words to say about this:

A coalition of health organizations honored two Helena doctors Monday, saying their work has helped lead to states and countries around the world acting to ban smoking in public buildings.

Dr. Robert Shepard and Dr. Richard Sargent were honored for their work by Protect Montana Kids, a coalition of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association of the Northern Rockies…

They also conducted a study that found that Helena’s heart-attack rate dropped 40 percent for the period when the ordinance was in effect and rose back to previous rates when the ban was later overturned…

“There are some criticisms of the study,” [Kristin Page-Nei, Montana government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network] said. “We felt this would be a good time to point out where the flaws in the criticism are.”

“Some criticisms” is an understatement. The study used a very small sample to draw wildly implausible conclusions about how quickly a smoking ban might reduce the number of heart attacks. Its ongoing citation by anti-smoking groups is one of the things that drives ban opponents and respectable tobacco researchers like Siegel up the wall. Granting this award demonstrates that these organizations value studies more for their propaganda value than their scientific credibility.

For critical background on the study, here’s Jacob Sullum, Dave Hitt, and of course Michael Siegel.


MI smoking ban defeated

Three cheers for deadlock! The Michigan Legislature once again failed to pass a statewide smoking ban. Unfortunately the reasons have nothing to do with respect for business owners, employees, and smokers. The two houses just can’t come to an agreement about whether to ban smoking everywhere or to allow exemptions in casinos, cigar bars, horse tracks, and bingo parlors. It’s a familiar pattern with smoking bans: states carve out exemptions for gambling establishments that bring in millions of dollars in tax revenue while not offering any relief to bar owners who would be similarly affected. Michigan’s lawmakers are divided by those who want to ban smoking everywhere and those who want to hypocritically allow it only in businesses the state has a stake in — a temporary win for liberty, but not one that’s likely to last.

Smoking ban unfair, insulting


Worth its weight in smoke

A few days ago I had a debate about smoking bans with a friend who said he’d be perfectly happy to allow smoking if someone invented a smokeless cigar. I haven’t heard of those, but how about a cigar that emits only a fine, sparkling mist of 24 karat gold?

Gold cigar

For now, sadly, this remarkable golden smoke exists only in the world of ridiculous Photoshopping. The gold leaf cigar is real though. For just $94.50 it makes the perfect gift for a friend, provided your friend is an obnoxious James Bond villain.


We were never at war with Eurasia

A new survey conducted for the British government claims that England’s smoking ban has failed to get people to quit smoking as backers hoped it would. The Daily Mail reports:

The ban on smoking in public has failed to increase the number of people quitting, a report revealed yesterday.

The proportion of men who smoke has actually risen since the ban in July last year while there was no change at all among women.

The figures, coming after years of declining smoking rates, are a massive blow to Labour’s public heath policy.

A survey of almost 7,000 across all age groups found on average there was no change in the number of cigarettes that smokers said they had.

But in men aged 16 to 34, the number rose, by one and a half cigarettes a day.

It had been hoped the ban would help reduce smoking rates among the poor in particular, but instead the number of cigarettes smoked by working class men has gone up.

The Health Survey for England, carried out by the NHS for ministers, has raised fears that smokers are simply lighting up at home rather than in pubs and restaurants – potentially putting children at risk.

The Department of Health’s response:

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: ‘Smokefree laws were introduced to protect employees and the public from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.

‘The legislation was never intended to be a measure to reduce smoking prevalence.’

Fair enough, if it were true. From the same article, here’s then Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt right before the ban took effect:

‘This is an enormous step forward for public health. It is going to make it easier for people who want to give up smoking to do so. Over time it will save thousands of lives.’

And a BBC article from the same time:

The government predicts about 600,000 people will give up smoking as a result of the law change.

And Guardian coverage:

The Department of Health estimates that around 700,000 of England’s 10 million smokers will quit as a result of the ban – an average of 1,300 people in each MP’s constituency.

Here’s the Daily Mail again, reporting on a study from earlier this year when it looked like the ban truly was causing people quit:

Another study, by the Department of Health, will also highlight tomorrow the success of the smoking ban in encouraging people to quit the habit.

The report will show that a total of 234,060 people have stopped smoking with the help of the NHS Quit Smoking Service since the ban was brought in on July 1, 2007.

That is 22 per cent more people than in the previous 12 months.

And for good measure, here’s one of the four reasons for implementing the ban listed on the Department of Health’s own website:

Smokefree law… helps people trying to give up smoking by providing supportive smokefree environments

The DoH is right to say that the main justification for smoking bans (to the extent that there is one) is to protect non-smokers; it’s a line spokesmen have used in the past as well. Yet from the beginning the department has consistently stressed that the ban would spur people to quit smoking and gladly took credit when it appeared that it did. If the new survey is accurate, DoH should own up to the failure.*

The interesting question is why smoking rates haven’t decreased and why they’re increasing among young men. I’m a bit skeptical of the finding, actually. At least in the first months following the ban, sales of cigarettes in England declined significantly. Even so, the survey appears reputable. It suggests that many people are choosing to just stay home and smoke. I have another theory.

In bars where smoking is allowed, I never smoke cigarettes. I don’t like them. My friends can smoke though, and we can still hang out together. Smoking bans change the dynamic. Now my friends have to step outside and I often find that the people I most want to talk to (i.e. the cool kids) are no longer in the bar. Or perhaps I’ll be chatting with a woman who suggests we step outside for a cigarette. Am I going to say no? Of course not, I go with her. And since it would be awkward to stand outside in the cold not smoking, the other person constantly aware that her habit is all that’s keeping me from warmth and drink, I’m going to light up as well.

For me this still adds up to less than 10 cigarettes a year and, at the risk of sounding Clintonian, I don’t inhale. But I can see how people who like cigarettes could end up smoking much more. As any smoker knows, smoking invites sociality, and bans have shifted the liveliest social space from a shared area inside the bar to an exclusive smokers’ club outside it. If young men really are smoking more than they were before, I suspect that this is one of the ban’s unintended consequences.

*A very trivial way out of this would be for DoH to claim that hundreds of thousands of smokers really did quit but that they’ve been unexpectedly replaced by a cohort of brand new smokers. I don’t think they’ll make that argument.


Smoking ban stupidity

There are too many smoking bans in the works these days for me to even try keeping up with them all. Indiana is one of the latest attempting to hop on the ban wagon:

State Rep. Charlie Brown is bracing for a fight.

He expects his third attempt to pass a statewide bill outlawing smoking in all public places to face opposition on several fronts.

And with the economy in a tailspin, advocates for bars, restaurants and casinos are preparing to let the Gary Democrat’s colleagues in the General Assembly know this is a particularly bad moment to force them to go smoke-free.

Yet Brown insists the time is right.

“Until somebody shows me concrete proof restaurants and casinos are hurt economically by being smoke-free, I won’t believe that,” said Brown, who chairs the House Public Health Committee.

“I would think, given that there are more non-smokers than smokers, this would be an economic benefit,” he said.

Do we really need to talk about this? Let’s try that argument in some other contexts:

“I would think, given that more people prefer hamburgers to Thai food, there would be an economic benefit to banning Thai restaurants.”

“I would think, given that more people prefer clothed servers to naked ones, there would be an economic benefit to banning strip clubs.”

“I would think, given that more people prefer quiet music to loud, there would be an economic benefit to banning loud music in bars and lounges.”

In any other circumstance this argument clearly makes no sense. Businesses cater to diversity. Thai restaurants cater to people who like Thai food, strip clubs cater to guys who like boobs, and yes, some bars and casinos cater to people who like to smoke. Regardless of what happens to the hospitality industry on net after a smoking ban goes into force, there are going to be some businesses that are adversely affected. Arguing otherwise is painfully stupid and anyone who does so ought to be ashamed of themselves.

For Rep. Brown’s sake, let’s try one more version of the argument:

“I would think, given that more people prefer smart leaders to dumb ones, there would be an economic benefit to banning self-righteous idiots from the Indiana House of Representatives.”

What do you say, eh Charlie?

The magic of politics


First they came for the cigarette smokers

Today the Boston City Council approved its measure banning the few remaining smoke-friendly businesses in the city. How bad is the new ban? Here’s City Councilor Michael Ross and restaurant owner Lydia Shire writing in the Boston Herald against it:

In these difficult times every small business is important. There are but six cigar bars in Boston, all of which undergo an annual local licensing process, exhibiting that 60 percent of their sales are from the sale of tobacco-related products and that the appropriate signage reflecting the risks of tobacco use is visible.

All six small businesses will be shut down if the regulations are passed as written. Even if these regulations are altered to temporarily grandfather in these six establishments, it is not reasonable to ask small business owners to maintain their significant investment in their communities, only to be shut down despite their commitment to be good businesses and neighbors.

They also note that the ban will extend to outdoor seating areas, unfairly punishing business owners who invested in patios to comply with the original smoking ban four years ago. Ross and Shire deserve full credit for opposing this rampant paternalism. Yet they’re a little late to the party. Note that they both support the earlier ban on smoking in bars and restaurants; they’re only stepping up now because they’re among those “who care to enjoy the pairing of a cigar and a glass of wine following dinner at one of Boston’s excellent restaurants.” Well la dee dah. If they’re not willing to be equally vigorous in their support of the property rights of sports bar owners or smokers who want to have a cigarette while they take in a music show, they have no right to be surprised when the city steps in to take away their precious postprandial maduros. The difference in the new ban and the original is one of degree, not of principle, and this is exactly the sort of thing we libertarians warned governments were heading towards when the original, less restrictive bans came into force. Now they expect city councils to draw a line protecting elitist cigar smokers like themselves? Give me a break. (And I say this as a fellow elitist cigar smoker.)

There is one interesting wrinkle though. The cigar and hookah bar ban was amended to not go into effect for ten years, with the possibility of one ten year extension after that. Twenty years is a long time, perhaps long enough for cooler heads to prevail; for now it lets the council look tough without actually hurting the businesses. Even so, how sickening is this excerpt from the AP report?

Roger Swartz, who heads the commission’s community initiatives bureau, said the panel lengthened the grace period for the bars because of hard economic times.

“We wanted to give them a bit more time to get used to the idea that they’ll have to close,” Swartz said.

Oh, how very nice of you Roger. You say that as though the bars’ closing was an inevitable event delayed only by the grace of Boston’s benevolent politicians, when you in fact are the ones driving them out of business. How does a person become so self-righteous that they can take credit for protecting small businesses on the same day they forbid their existence?

Today the Boston Public Health Commission justifies the slippery slope arguments made by property rights defenders many years ago. We were told that we shouldn’t worry, that the smoking bans in bars and restaurants were reasonable, and that sufficient accommodations for smokers would be made. Now we see that no ban is strict enough for the public health nannies, that even six cigar bars in a city of more than 600,000 people is too many. The regulators will, perhaps, finally overreach and create a backlash, but by then much of the damage to business owners will be done.

[Hat tip: The Stogie Guys.]

Not a war on smokers?


Cigarettes’ secret shame

RJR gambled against the trend of tasteless cigarettes, opting to load their new filter tip with tar and nicotine, so that even after the filter had done its work some taste and tar would remain intact. In deference, however, to the modern smoker’s less discriminating palates, they decided that quality of taste could be compromised, and that their new filter brand might make use of the 30 per cent or so of tobacco wasted in processing in the manufacture of normal cigarettes. After rigorous experiments with a coffee grinder and a pulp press, RJR came up with RST — Reconstituted Sheet Tobacco — which used all the stems, leaf ribs, tobacco scraps and dust which had hitherto been thrown away…

The introduction of RST marks a change in the cigarette manufacturers’ perception of their customers. Cigarettes, despite their origin as poor man’s tools, had nevertheless been a genuine tobacco habit. The paper skin that rendered their contents invisible was accepted by both manufacturer and consumer to be at most a necessary evil, but never a cloak of darkness beneath which secrets were concealed. Once manufacturers started treating their products as a package instead of a tobacco delivery system, and a package that had to look prettier or promise better health, wealth, or appearance than their competitors’ brands, they effectively abandoned the integrity of their product in favor of its appearance.

That’s from Iain Gately’s Tobacco, a fantastic cultural history on read on my long plane rides this week. Gately illustrates how today’s demonization of tobacco paints with far too broad a brush. Cigarettes are the most visible and deadly form of smoking, but they are to tobacco what mass market light lagers are to beer: convenient, fast, flavorless bastardizations of what the product can truly achieve. Cigarettes succeeded because they’re cheap, marketable, and quickly smoked, giving consumers the power (or curse) to keep up a steady nicotine fix. Pipe and cigar smoking are much older, much safer practices. The flavors they offer are much more developed. But because they take time and effort, they’re much less frequently enjoyed today than they used to be. Unfortunately, the same bans that throw cigarette smokers out of doors often thwart pipe and cigar smokers entirely. A bracing two minute cigarette break outside in the Boston winter is one thing, but an hour outdoors with a cigar? Not worth the frostbite.

Gately’s wide-ranging look at tobacco culture would enhance anyone’s appreciation for the plant while giving hope for the future; though today’s smoking bans appear draconian, they’re nothing next to the kingly proclamations and death sentences smoking used to elicit. These too shall pass, and hopefully with them quality tobacco’s current cultural insignificance.

Save Carthage!


Announcing the Arthur Kaler Award

If you follow tobacco policy, you’ve probably heard by now that Atlantic City is reversing its smoking ban after just one month of implementation. Just like the hypocrites in the Iowa legislature, the Atlantic City Council’s concern for workers ended when the city’s tax revenues took a hit; the double-whammy of an economic recession and driving smokers away from game floors was too much for casinos to handle. When private businesses that cater to smokers are hurt by smoking bans, of course, governments are rarely so sympathetic.

No surprises there, but blog pal Rogier van Bakel spotted a particularly galling passage in an article about the reversal:

The ban will end Sunday, and the situation will again revert to what it was before, where smoking is restricted to no more than 25 percent of the gambling floor… Arthur Kaler, a 25-year dealer at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, felt betrayed by the council’s reversal.

“If we are here next year to revisit the smoking ban and I have fallen victim to lung cancer, will each of you look my family in the eyes?” he asked council members at a recent meeting. “Tell them how brave I was to fight secondhand smoke every day to save the economy of New Jersey. A ballpark or street could be dedicated in my honor, and my family can be bestowed a plaque.”

Sorry Arthur, I don’t think you’ll be seeing a bronze plaque anytime soon, despite your noble efforts on behalf of the economy of New Jersey. Yet you clearly deserve something. But since I can’t deliver what you truly deserve via html, this blog’s going to go Andrew Sullivan style and name an award after you: The Arthur Kaler Award for Sanctimonious Nannyism, dedicated to those whose self-righteous paternalism goes above and beyond the call of duty.

Our first nominee is the Portman Group in the UK. You may remember their ongoing campaign against Skullsplitter Ale for the beer label’s “violent” overtones. Today they have a new brewery in their crosshairs:

An “aggressive” beer sold under the name Punk IPA faces being banned after a ruling that it would promote irresponsible drinking.

The drink and two others made by BrewDog in Fraserburgh, Hop Rocker and Rip Tide, were found to have breached marketing rules in a provisional decision by the Portman Group, a self-regulating industry body.

It decided Rip Tide’s description as a “twisted merciless stout” would be associated with antisocial behaviour, while the claim that Hop Rocker was a “nourishing foodstuff” and that “magic is still there to be extracted” implied that it would enhance physical and mental capabilities.

Note that the Portman Group is funded by alcohol giants such as Coors, Carlsberg, Diageo, and InBev, suggesting that their moralizing has less to do with protecting helpless drinkers than it does with hurting small competitors. BrewDog managing director James Watt calls for getting rid of Portman instead of his beers. I haven’t seen BrewDog available here in the US, but I hope UK readers will pick up a few bottles in his support.

We’ll doubtlessly have more Kaler Award nominees coming up, so follow along here and when the time is right we’ll pick a winner.

Update 11/20/08: BrewDog is available in the US! I grabbed a bottle of their Punk IPA and one of their Scotch barrel aged ales today at Portland’s Belmont Station.


Smokers unfit for fostering

Several borough councils in London are considering banning smokers from taking in foster children, with one having just approved the measure:

Smokers are to be banned from becoming foster carers in one London borough, and other councils say they may follow suit.

Councillors in Redbridge, north-east London, voted unanimously for the ban at a cabinet meeting last night, to protect children from the dangers of passive smoking…

Children in the borough will not be placed with foster carers who smoke after January 2010. Existing foster carers will be given practical help and support to give up.

However, charity the Fostering Network has expressed concerns the policy could prevent good foster carers from coming forward.

“We certainly view this as a good move in terms of creating a smoke-free environment for a child, but we don’t agree that a blanket ban on any smokers becoming foster carers is the right thing,” a spokesman said.

While it may be sensible to require foster parents to not smoke indoors with their children, it’s hard to see any justification for bans like these beyond simple prejudice against people who enjoy tobacco. Having a cigarette on his patio isn’t going to do the slightest bit of harm to a child — certainly less harm than not having a caring foster parent at all would do.

These insidious bans have been spreading throughout the UK in the past year. As Michael Siegel notes, foster agencies normally exercise case-by-case discretion about who is suitable to care for kids. Smokers are put into unsavory company:

What Sheffield is saying here is that smokers are simply not fit to be parents. The city would rather take on a convicted criminal (as long as it’s not a sexual violence or child abuse-related crime) than a smoker. The city proclaims to be “so open” because “what matters most to a child is who you are as a person, your character and capacity to care.” But what seems to matter first and foremost is whether you smoke.

The city puts up very few categorical restrictions on foster parents. Even being a convicted criminal is not a categorical restriction. Your personal situation will be taken into account.

Not so if you are a smoker.

But it’s for the children, so it’s all good.


Pipe down!

As you all know, Oregon is welcoming me to the state with a strict new smoking ban that goes into effect on January 1. As smoking bans go it’s not the worst in the US, in that it at least makes exceptions for cigar bars and retail shops. The income requirement from cigar sales is fairly reasonable too: at just $5,000 per year, smoke-friendly cigar bars should be able to achieve it without too much trouble.

The rules for cigar bars have a curious restriction though:

To qualify as a cigar bar, a business must… Prohibit the smoking of all tobacco products other than cigars

Presumably this means that hookahs and pipes are literally out the window (and at least 10 feet away from it). This is absurd. Pipe and cigar smokers join together in the brotherhood of the leaf. Where one is welcome, so is the other. Yet come January 1, enjoying a pipe in a smokers’ bar will be illegal.

I don’t think the intent of the legislature was to ban pipe smoking. It’s such a rare activity these days that they probably just didn’t consider it. My guess is that their true goal is to discriminate against cigarette smokers. They want to make it absolutely impossible for them to find places where they can light up. And further, by denying cigar bar owners the right to serve them they make it even harder for cigar bar owners to build a customer base and stay in business.

All of which shows yet again that the motives for these smoking bans has very little to do with protecting employees and the public from secondhand smoke and everything to do with stamping out a lifestyle deemed unworthy by our nannying rulers.

[Hat tip to commenter Ben at Stogie Guys.]

Not a war on smokers?
Please do smoke, if you like


We win!

For now, at least. This week Michigan’s long fight over a proposed statewide smoking ban came to a temporary end, with supporters failing to muster enough votes in the House to pass it. Concerns about its impact on state casino tax revenues and smoking related businesses sunk the bill; if passed, it would have banned smoking even in cigar bars and tobacco shops.

My May op/ed in the Detroit Free-Press arguing against the ban garnered more hate mail (and slightly fewer supportive emails) than anything else I’ve ever written. It’s archived behind a pay wall at the Freep site, but reposted here.

[Via The Stogie Guys.]


Not a war on smokers?

Boston has banned smoking in bars and restaurants since 2003. That legislation forbade lighting up indoors in almost all businesses. The only exceptions were for cigar and hookah bars and for tobacco shops, all of which must get at least 60% of their revenues from tobacco sales. Making more money from tobacco than from drinks is very hard to do, so as you can imagine it’s not easy for smokers to find a place to enjoy a Scotch with their stogies. Non-smokers have no trouble finding places to accommodate their preference, whether as employees or as customers.

This isn’t enough for the Boston Public Health Commission. They passed a new measure this week to ban smoking in businesses of any kind, including tobacco shops. Nor can smokers be told to step outside. A cavalier response in the Boston winter under any circumstances, even that cold comfort will be taken away under the law: Outdoor patios will be forced to go smokefree as well. Denny Crane will always have his grand balcony, but we lesser mortals will have no place left to gather in Beantown.

This measure goes beyond any plausible justification of improving the public health to attempting to stamp out an unpopular lifestyle. This is a direct assault on the property rights and freedom of association of smokers, who are now being told that their hobby is uniquely unworthy of legal protection. And this is exactly where we defenders of property rights warned we were headed when less restrictive smoking bans became en vogue.

[Hat tip: The Stogie Guys.]

Smoking ban mission creep
Bans vs. freedom of association
The most decadent night of my life


Secondhand smoke causes zombification

Defending Pennsylvania’s new statewide smoking ban, PA health department spokesman Holli Senior says:

Senior noted that more than 20,000 Pennsylvania adults die each year from their own smoking and approximately 300,000 Pennsylvanians under the age of 18 die either directly or indirectly because of smoking.

Nationally, it is estimated that between 1 million and 3 million adult non-smokers die each year from exposure to second-hand smoke, noted Senior.

As Michael Siegel notes, these numbers are absolutely absurd. In Pennsylvania there are about 125,000 deaths each year from all causes. Nationally there are about 2.5 million. Thus there’s no way these figures are even close to correct. His conclusion? Secondhand smoke is essentially, but not technically killing people, resulting in hordes of zombies walking among us. Either that or anti-smoking activists will now say any crazy thing they please to get their way.