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.


The last word in mixology

Last Word cocktail

When you see green in a mixed drink, that’s often a sign that the bartender is getting carried away with sour apple pucker and it’s time for you to find another bar. Not so if the color comes from Chartreuse liqueur. My post today at Crispy on the Outside takes a look at the delightful Last Word cocktail.


Happy Repeal Day!

Hey everybody, I hope you’ve got some fun things planned for tonight. A long flight, a time change, and Reason magazine’s 40th anniversary party kept me far too busy yesterday to catch up on internet at happenings. I’m at Murky now, checking in briefly before heading over to Cato for what looks to be one of the most popular events ever held there. Jeff and I are going to have our hands full getting drinks to the thirsty libertarian masses.

There’s a lot of Repeal Day writing coming out today, including one op/ed from me in the American Spectator discussing the spiritual heirs of the Temperance movement (which, as Radley learned, is still active!).

I plan to post a more complete roundup soon, but in the meantime here are two excellent pieces from historian Maureen Ogle (author of Ambitious Brew, a book on the history of American beer that I’m currently enjoying). In the first she examines Prohibition’s legacy of regulations that hamper today’s boutique producers of spirits, beer, and wine. In the second she hopes we toast not alcohol itself, but rather our right to enjoy it. Read them both, and be sure to check out her weblog too.

More to come… Cheers!


Guest agitating

I’ve been invited to guest write for a couple of weeks on Radley Balko’s excellent site, The Agitator, while he’s on vacation in Alaska. Radley’s a good friend and writes one of the best blogs around, so of course I accepted. I’ll post here too, but most of my updates will probably be over there. My intro post is here and I posted an entry about tobacco control just a few minutes ago. And if you don’t like me, head over anyway for the rest of the talented guest blogging crew.


Think globally, eat globally

Those of you who’ve been wanting more of a smackdown between Paul Roberts and I won’t find it in today’s exchange, where we agree that there are plenty of reasons to enjoy eating natural, locally grown food — as long as you’re not kidding yourself about the health and environmental benefits. Read it here.

Tomorrow’s topic is foods that need to be banned, so things could get a little more heated then.


Today in Dust-Up

Today in Dust-Up, Paul Roberts and I discuss whether or not the FDA has enough regulatory power. You can guess where I come down, but Paul doubts the agency’s efforts too.

On a related note, Peter Van Doren lays down some skepticism about food safety regulation in this Cato Daily Podcast.

Update: Also, whoever writes the headlines at deserves a raise.

Back in The Jungle
Don’t blame Milton!


Dust-Up in the L.A. Times

This week in the L.A. Times Dust-Up feature, I’m discussing food policy with Paul Roberts, author of the recently released The End of Food. We take on a different question each day, taking turns on who goes first. Today’s question considers food-borne illness in our produce: is it a major menace or a manageable threat?

This should be a fun discussion. Paul and I don’t agree on everything, as you’ll see in the coming week, but we’d both like to see consumers eating better, fresher food, an end to subsidies for industrial farming, and regulations that aren’t bent to the interests of major corporate players. His book is worthwhile reading for anyone interested in why so much of our food is so bad and how out of touch we are with its origins.


The Post <3 libertarians

Sunday’s Washington Post Outlook section included an op-ed from my Cato colleague Tom Firey and I on Virginia’s proposed smoking ban. Amazingly, we’re against it! The section also featured Reason editors Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie telling Congress to butt out of baseball’s steroid controversy.