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Smoke free

January 18, 2007

Every Saturday morning, MrsDoF and i go on a date to a restaurant in Bloomington to have a nice breakfast together.  Usually it’s coffee, eggs, pancakes, sausage, and coffee, and cigarette smoke.  We wait around for a “non-smoking” table but oddly enough smoke manages to find us anyway.

I’m pretty libertarian about personal behavior and as much as I dislike smoke while I’m eating, I’ve never said anything to anyone or campaigned for any smoking bans.  I put up with smoking because the smoke-free restaurant is eight to ten bucks a plate, while our regular haunt is a less pretentious four bucks, give or take.

But on 01 January, both Bloomington and Normal (yes, that is our town’s name) put into effect one of those newfangled “smoking bans” in restaurants.

It’s really nice.  The restaurant seems as crowded as ever, but we walk in and are seated right away.  The air is clear all the way to the back wall.  It’s refreshing and the food even tastes better.  So i don’t know if it’s an offense against personal freedom – you could make that argument I guess – but i like it.  Just hope it doesn’t hurt the restaurant owners.

Categories: Law, Politics
  1. January 18, 2007 at 20:38 | #1

    I remember one time when I went on vacation to a Hawaii (I live in San Francisco) and in a restaurant the hostess asked us “Smoking or non-smoking?” and I was blown away because it had been so long since I had heard that phrase.

  2. January 18, 2007 at 22:12 | #2

    I smoke, but I have no problem with smoking bans.  Washington has a very broad one, but it doesn’t seem to have hurt anyone’s business.

  3. Joe
    January 19, 2007 at 07:19 | #3

    The no smoking law has been in California for a while. After the initial complaining, I have not seen one report that can show damage to the Hospitality industry. One of the two greatest laws first passed in California, the other being the right turn on red law.

  4. January 19, 2007 at 08:30 | #4

    Jay and I having quit almost five years ago and there has only been one restaurant in our area that we simply can’t eat in due to the smoke.  I don’t complain about others smoking but I do speak up when asked about the dangers of it as you age.

  5. January 19, 2007 at 09:13 | #5

    I have no problem with some restaurants being smoke-free; I don’t see any reason why ALL restaurants need to be. 

    Here in NC (read: Tobacco country) smoking bans are few and far between (but becoming more prevalent all the time).  Many restaurants have opted, on their own, to be smoke free.  Just as many have not.  I say let the business owners decide and keep the government out of it.

    I quit smoking recently – on Dec. 14.  I still have lunch with my sister every day, and she still smokes, so we go to a restaurant that allows smoking.  If I go out with my non-smoking friends, I don’t have a problem going to a place that’s smoke free.

    As a consumer, I GET TO CHOOSE where to spend my money.  Like DOF says, he had the option of going to a smoke-free restaurant, but CHOSE not to because of price.  It’s a matter of priorities.  To him, the price was more important than the environment.  To someone else, eating in a non-smoking place may be worth a few extra dollars.  Whatever rubs your buddah, you know?

  6. January 19, 2007 at 10:25 | #6

    I smoke but believe as long as I have a choice to go elsewhere or not smoke I am happy.

    And yes, smoking sections in restaurants are very much the same as pissing sections in swimming pools.

  7. January 19, 2007 at 11:39 | #7

    I loathe crowds and the smell of cigarette smoke. Allergies and asthma triggered by cigarette smoke don’t help, either. For me, it’s a simple choice – I will not set foot in an establishment where people are allowed to smoke.

    For obvious reasons, I’m in favor of smoking bans, but I can’t say I can muster the empathy towards smokers to think this through.

  8. January 19, 2007 at 11:45 | #8

    I remember one time when I went on vacation to a Hawaii (I live in San Francisco) and in a restaurant the hostess asked us “Smoking or non-smoking?” and I was blown away because it had been so long since I had heard that phrase.

    I had the same reaction when I moved from California to Colorado (which has subsequently and recently enacted a statewide ban).

    Aside from the ventilation-style problems that KeesKennis notes (and on that note, let me say that the greatest thing that ever happened to transatlantic travel was the banning of cigarettes, smoking sections or not), my comment to MorningGlory is, while I sympathize very much with your stance, it’s not always as free a choice as all that.

    While you can recognize restaurant styles/cuisine, and likely prices, from ads and the Yellow Pages and the like, it’s not nearly as easy to identify smoking/non-smoking restaurants.  Even when you can, it’s one more factor in an already-over-complicated matrix of what one’s in the mood for.

    All of which is weak of course (arguably as weak as some of the evidence for damages from second-hand smoke).  I will be forthright enough to say that I’m willing to see smoking banned from restaurants because I want to be (and because I don’t think there’s a fundamental right for you to smoke in my locale), and if it comes down to inconveniencing someone who smokes and inconveniencing me—I’m willing to be selfish in this small regard.

  9. james old guy
    January 19, 2007 at 11:57 | #9

    Its the same old argument about how much is the government allowed to dictate to the private citizen what he does with his own property. Much like a lot of thing in this country, declaring something illigal doesn’t stop it, the great prohibition movement proved that.  The same arguments that were used back then have just changed a bit and are use today. I am not saying drinking or smoking is good or bad, what i am saying the government needs to be extremely careful about legislation that infringes on the individuals rights of ownership.

  10. January 19, 2007 at 14:55 | #10

    While you can recognize restaurant styles/cuisine, and likely prices, from ads and the Yellow Pages and the like, it’s not nearly as easy to identify smoking/non-smoking restaurants.  Even when you can, it’s one more factor in an already-over-complicated matrix of what one’s in the mood for.

    So instead of legislating a 100% smoking ban,how about if pass legislation that allows a proportion of the licensed eating/drinking/bowling establishments to be smoking, and the remainder to be non-smoking.  The proportion would mirror the percentage of the adult (over 18) population of the county that are smokers.  Once the maximum number of smoking-allowed establishments has been reached, no more permits will be issued for smoking-allowed establishments.  The proportions should be adjusted once every 5 years or so, to account for the increasing number of people who are quitting (such as myself).  Businesses would also be required to post prominently OUTSIDE the building whether the building is smoke-free or not; you could even go so far as to require it on all print ads (newspaper ads, yellow pages, etc.) so that consumers will know beforehand whether they will be subject to/allowed to smoke.

    My problem with the government issuing an across-the-board edict banning all smoking in any building is that it infringes on private property rights.  This is a business decision that the business owner has the right to make without government interference.  The decision to allow smoking may prove to be a bad business decision; I’ll wager that if you’re running a bar or a bowling alley, though, it will prove to be a good one.

  11. L>T
    January 19, 2007 at 16:17 | #11

    Where I live in Oregon, all the restaurants are smoke free but Bars aren’t. It’s perfectly OK with me. I don’t want to have to worry about somebodys cigarette smoke ruining my meal when I’m eating. I think smoking ban in public places is no big deal. But I’m not a smoker.

  12. January 19, 2007 at 22:32 | #12

    I don’t smoke and I am not crazy about the smell in a smoke filled room..but I do think it is up to the business owner to allow or not allow smoking. I think if there is any law to be passed it would be one that says there must be a sign to identify the place as a smoking permitted joint and then anyone who enters knows what they are in for.

  13. zilch
    January 20, 2007 at 09:32 | #13

    Vienna is now in the process of going from voluntary to mandatory smoke-free areas in restaurants.  There’s a lot of opposition from restaurant owners, and I sympathize with the idea that it should be up to them how smoking is dealt with.  On the other hand, as a non-smoker in “the last paradise for smokers” aka Austria, I don’t eat out much, largely because of the air pollution caused by drug addicts.

    This is a difficult question: how much should private business be regulated?  On the one hand, I am of course free to patronize one of the few restaurants here which are smoke-free;  on the other, there’s not really that much difference between allowing smoking and allowing moldy food in a restaurant:  they both adversely affect the health of the clients.

  14. January 20, 2007 at 09:53 | #14

    Morning Glory and James:  In reality, it is primarily about second hand smoke and the restaurant employees.  It is also about public health policy.  I know that neither of you probably care too much about either of those issues, so I await your flames. ;-)

  15. January 20, 2007 at 09:54 | #15

    BTW, I agree that I have never seen a situation where a widespread smoking ban hurt business beyond a few hours.

  16. January 20, 2007 at 11:13 | #16

    WeeDram said it best. It is a health issue. I smoke, and for now, it is still my right to do so. However, it is not my right to force those around me to smoke with me – and it shouldn’t be.

  17. January 20, 2007 at 22:06 | #17

    I figure there is about as many health problems from fire places and charcoal grill smoke is there is from second hand tobacco smoke..I’ve seen the studies from both the anti tobacco and the pro tobacco groups..depends on which one you believe and I figure both have a dawg in the fight.

    I look at banning smoking much like I do any other law that is made to protect me..when will they ban automobiles because they kill. When will they ban meat because it causes fatty blood..and oh yeah..sugar can cause diabetes. The irony is that the same bunch that wants to ban tobacco have no problem lighting uo a joint..go figure

  18. January 20, 2007 at 23:10 | #18

    Are you saying the list of carcinogens in charcoal in a grill is as toxic as those in cigarettes?  With respect to cigarettes, can you say “polonium”?  (Does Litvinenko ring a bell?)

    And I know of no studies that class charcoal or marijuana as carcinogenic as cigarette smoke, so if I’m uninformed or wrong on the facts please let me know.  AFAIK, the risk with grilling food over charcoal has more to do with doneness of the food (i.e., don’t “burn it) and the fattiness of the meat than charcoal or smoke.

    And anyway, we were talking about SMOKING IN ENCLOSED PUBLIC PLACES SUCH AS A RESTAURANT, not cooking over a grill outside.

    It’s always interesting how right-wingers change the subject from facts to ideologue-driven claptrap when faced with facts.  Do you really deny that a restaurant or bar filled with smoke is not a health risk to other patrons and employees?  C’mon Guy, let’s talk about reality, not your unfettered rights make-believe-land.  Maybe this will help:

    http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/tobac-tabac/res/media/camp/ghost-vid-spectre_e.html

    Yes, the video is an emotional appeal, but it is also simply a graphic presentation of reality.

  19. January 21, 2007 at 07:52 | #19

    And anyway, we were talking about SMOKING IN ENCLOSED PUBLIC PLACES SUCH AS A RESTAURANT

    If a restaurant is owned by the taxpaying public, then it is a public place.  If it owned by an individual, then it is PRIVATE PROPERTY (see, I can yell, too).  I will (reluctantly) agree to allow government to legislate that a certain percentage of PRIVATE PROPERTY should be designated smoke free; my problem is with the across-the-board edict that ALL should be so.  Clearly, this does not apply to PUBLIC PROPERTY such as government buildings and airports (for example). 

    Morning Glory and James:  In reality, it is primarily about second hand smoke and the restaurant employees.  It is also about public health policy.  I know that neither of you probably care too much about either of those issues, so I await your flames.

    Your statement that we “don’t care” about public health and employees is childish and churlish.  Next, we will have to make chemical plants “chemical-free” so the employees are not endangered.  And let’s not forget making cities “fire-free” so the firefighters won’t have to risk their lives.  Every job, from garbage collector to taxi driver all the way up to POTUS comes with risks.  When an employee accepts a job in a smoking environment, they accept those risks.  When a patron eats in a smoking establishment, they accept those risks.  We’re grownups – we can decide for ourselves whether we want to accept the risk or not.  As DOF said in his post, he had the choice to eat in a smoke-free establishment, but it wasnt’ worth it (to him) to spend th extra money.  His choice.

  20. January 21, 2007 at 09:11 | #20

    Since the public is invited to patronize a restaurant with the only restrictions being their ability to pay , it’s a public place.  There is a big difference between publicly owned and open to the public.

    Your other arguments are an attempt at reductio ad absurdum, but they are silly and non-logical.  Chemical factories are highly regulated, whether privately owned or held by the government.  The regulations are designed to protect both employees and the public.  There is essentially no difference between a leak at a chemical plant that endangers the public and 2nd hand smoke in a restaurant.

    Employees at a chemical plant make a choice about being employed there with the knowledge that they are working in a chemical plant. Quite reasonably, the expect the government to enact and enforce regulations to protect them.  By having legislation that protects employees in restaurants, pubs and other workplaces, they are simply gaining the same types of protection as already afforded those in other workplace environments.  In this case, there was a regulation requiring non-smoking sections.  When it was shown that this was not effective enough, new regulations to ban smoking in these places was brought in.  It’s that simple.

    Childish?  Churlish?  Well, I DID put a smiley in there, (and I did say “probably”) but it seems I hit a sensitive nerve.  Again, this is about public health policy.  Social health and safety policies are ALWAYS about overriding unbridled “rights” and choice.  To use your reductio ad absurdum approach, why should I have to drive on roads and obey traffic regulations?  Where does it end? 

    Truly caring about public health is about actions, not words.  A response couched in the language of idealism, the whole “my rights” argument, only serves to illustrate my point.

  21. January 21, 2007 at 11:00 | #21

    All right, everyone; calm soothing thoughts… ;-)

    As DOF said in his post, he had the choice to eat in a smoke-free establishment, but it wasnt’ worth it (to him) to spend th extra money.  His choice.

    Just to clarify, it does bother me that I’d have to pay twice as much to eat in a smoke-free restaurant.  But I let it slide because I didn’t have asthmatic kids tagging along – call me shallow.  Also the “choice” of a smoke-free restaurant is more complicated when a group of people are going out, too.

    (Pet peeve: people who come into a restaurant during a busy time, sit there with a paperback book or a newspaper tying up the table, and a cigarette burning away in an ashtray.  But that isn’t a legal issue, it’s a “thoughtless jerk” issue. /peeve)

    I am not sure how dangerous second-hand cigarette smoke really is, but I suspect it’s a lot less than being the smoker. I know plenty of people who favor a smoking ban who wouldn’t think of lighting up a joint.  But until a lot of people start smoking twenty joints a day, or smoking them in family restaurants, the carcinogenicity of marijuana is a side-issue.

    The obstinate denial of the common good is something that bothers me about the libertarian approach to this issue.  Yes, there is a right to private property but no right is unlimited. 

    Having said that, and also that I am enjoying the smoke-free restaurant – and will probably eat out more now because of it – I do think this issue could have been addressed technologically with better air management systems.  And it should have been addressed by common courtesy – when people go to any restaurant that has kiddie seats, couldn’t they hold off smoking for one lousy hour?  Too bad it ever came to this.

  22. January 21, 2007 at 18:54 | #22

    Oh, I DO agree that “it came to this”.  Common sense, courtesy and concern other than self are always to be preferred to legislation and regulation.  But that, unfortunately, is not how the world works.  Even “hippies” who attempted establish Utopian communes of like-minded people discovered that selfishness can trump the majority.

    I am tempted to say that “lots” of people have died of 2nd hand smoke, and many, many more contract serious illnesses as a result; but I honestly do not know the numbers.  I DO know that the US Surgeon General has stated that only smoke-free environments can protect from the effects of second-hand smoke .

    As DOF knows, I am not opposed to people smoking; I still enjoy the occasional cigar (about 4 per year) in the great outdoors.  Should there be children nearby or others who are not able to make a decision to move to a safe circumference, I don’t light up.

    Am I basically a nice guy?  Some people think so.  Do I get passionate enough about certain things that I come across as an a$$-hole?  Some people have said so.  On Meyers-Brigss I am predominately a Feeler.

  23. January 21, 2007 at 20:01 | #23

    Since the public is invited to patronize a restaurant with the only restrictions being their ability to pay , it’s a public place.  There is a big difference between publicly owned and open to the public.

    The operative word here is invited.  No one is forcing anyone to patronize any restaurant.  I choose not go to to restaurants that serve horsemeat.  But I don’t insist that the government ban such establishments.  Before I quit smoking, I chose not to patronize restaurants that didn’t allow smoking.  But I didn’t insist that the goverment ban them.

    You clearly choose not to patronize restaurants that allow smoking.  Fine – that’s entirely your choice to make.  I think that there should be smoke-free restaurants, where non-smokers and folks with children can go to enjoy a meal or a drink and not have to deal with second-hand smoke.  I just don’t understand the need for EVERY SINGLE RESTAURANT AND BAR IN EVERY CITY ON THE PLANET to be smoke-free.

  24. WeeDram
    January 21, 2007 at 21:32 | #24

    Clearly we differ on the definition of “public”, and clearly I should have stated “open to the public” rather than invited.  And certainly we disagree on the need for a smoke-free environment wherever the public can enter.

    =30=
    Fin

  25. January 22, 2007 at 05:27 | #25

    public:maintained at the public expense and under public control

    private:of, pertaining to, or coming from nongovernmental sources

    I’ve stated over and over that I’m willing to meet you halfway on this, even to go so far as to require a percentage of privately-owned businesses to be smoke-free.  Why can you not compromise?

  26. zilch
    January 22, 2007 at 06:55 | #26

    This is another issue where no logically defensible hard-and-fast lines can be drawn, in this case between personal freedom (of smokers and private restaurant owners) and public health.  But I will go along with ***Dave and say that smoking should be prohibited in restaurants open to the public.

    Especially so, because smoking is not something people must do, but rather a drug addiction that endangers not only the smoker.  Why should smokers have the right to impose their addiction on others in places open to the public?  Should I be allowed to toke up and get the people next to me stoned in a family restaurant?

    It’s not as though the conflict is symmetrical.  Nonsmokers do not endanger the health of smokers.  Smokers forced to refrain from smoking for an hour are inconvenienced; nonsmokers forced to breathe smoke for an hour are imposed upon.

    Perhaps a compromise could be that bars would allow smoking, since they are providing other drugs as well, but that restaurants should be smoke-free.

  27. james old guy
    January 22, 2007 at 08:10 | #27

    What is the next step? When does the government prohibit parents from smoking in their own home? Govenments have already passed into law how food is prepared, and is looking into portion control. But its for your own good, because you don’t have the will power to walk out or to choose. Don’t worry the government will make the choice for you, your not responsable enough to do that. You don’t have the ability to ask if they allow smoking and then leave if they do. Its your right to make that owner serve you and his responsability to protect you from yourself.

  28. January 22, 2007 at 18:28 | #28

    WeeDram, I love your responses and I am usually in line with your thinking, but here we differ. 

    I hate having to go to restaurants where people are allowed to smoke, so I either put up with the smoking, or go to restaurants with no smoking.  Oddly enough, my favorite restaurant in the area happens to be smoke free.  BTW: DOF, you should check out Tai House.  It rocks.

    Anyways, I make the choice to eat at smoking environments (or at least I used to).  And that is perfectly fine with me.  Businesses should not have dictates from the gov forced down their throats, unless they are doing something obviously immoral or illegal.  The only good way to manage this smoking stuff is to let businesses decide.

    Interestingly enough, State Farm, which employs over 10,000 people in this town has made all of their offices smoke free, and have forced their employees to become smoke free, so that State Farm can afford their health insurance.  Employees now have a choice, smoke and find a new job, or quit.

    Regardless, I really don’t care one way or the other.  I find it hard to believe that businesses are going to be run into the ground because of this.  And the overlying health costs associated with smoking in public places is hard to dismiss.

  29. zilch
    February 1, 2007 at 09:54 | #29

    Update- the EU is planning, or at least floating the idea (it’s not certain whether they have the legal authority to do so) a prohibition of smoking in all public (in the sense of “publicly accessible”) enclosed spaces.  That would of course include all restaurants and bars.  Included in the article was the statistic (not further attributed) that even in tiny (population eight million) Austria, three people die daily of secondhand smoke.

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