Friday, October 21, 2005

Smoke Signals

Jim Leach has a good roundup of last night’s Springfield smoking ban hearing. He also makes a number of excellent points in favor of the ban. I would like to follow up with a few comments of my own on the issue.

When approaching this subject you have to remember smoking is not new and the proposed ban is not happening in a vacuum. Smoking in many public places is, and has been, the norm. As such, it is hard for non-smoking to make inroads. There is a certain inertial that has to be fought to get smoke-free environments. What the bans do is hit the reset button. Or at least that’s how I would like to see it used. Let’s clean the slate, let the smoke-free establishments become the norm. From there, perhaps years down the road, maybe we can consider some limited number of smoking establishments. Maybe the city could issue special licenses to Cigar Bars much as they grant 3:00 AM liquor licenses. Perhaps there could be other exceptions as well. But that’s just the point; we need them to be the exception not the rule. Right now, the equation is reversed.

Smoking (in public places) advocates might argue that voluntary smoking restrictions have worked in retail settings. Even though I lived through it, I’m not sure how it really came about. I do remember working at a bookstore in the newly opened White Oaks Mall my senior year in high school (1977-1978) and every night sweeping the dust and trash off the floors including dozens of cigarette butts. Back then, it was normal for people to walk around stores smoking. Somehow retailers were able to break the public of this habit by initially posting No Smoking signs which were later removed as people understood you just don’t smoke in stores. But restaurants and particularly bars show no sign of doing this other than setting up very ineffective non-smoking areas. While the non-smoking sections began to pop up about the same time as the decline in smoking in retail stores, there has been almost no progress since then. They need a little (OK, a lot) of encouragement.

I find it incredible today that people in the recent past, my past, did smoke in clothing stores, hair salons -barber and beauty shops as they were called back in the day, airplanes, buses, offices, food stores, etc. 20 years from now, as smoking bans continue to come into effect everywhere, it will seem particularly strange that there was ever smoking allowed in restaurants.

And one final point. Those who deny there is any long term health risk to inhaling second-hand smoke probably aren’t going to be dissuaded from that position because it is hard to demonstrate. But let’s assume for a minute that there are NO long-term health effects associated second hand smoking. There are, undeniably, short term effects: nasal irritation, lung irritation, eye irritation (I’m particularly sensitive to this), and your hair and clothes stink to high heaven. I can’t think of any other activity that has these kinds of short term effects on others that is considered socially acceptable.


Tal said...

I am not opposed if a private business wants to ban smoking, It’s their business!!! However, if I own a business and I want to allow people to smoke, I don't want/need the heave hand of government watching over. If the smoke offends someone they don't have to frequent by establishment, but I don't need the government to tell me what demographic I can cater to.

Dave said...

The government already has a large number health-related regulations imposed on business and I tell you the pubic is both grateful and supportive of it.

Additionally, these new rules don't govern the catering to any specific demographic. Smokers can still eat and drink in the same places. They just can't smoke inside while doing it. Smoking, hopefully, doesn't rule their life to the point where they have to be in a smoking environment every minute of their waking hours.

Anonymous said...


Read the clean air act. Second hand smoke causes more problems than a chance to get cancer. This is a health issue that effects people who are around the person who smokes. The guy having a beer doesn't directly effect me but if he is smoking, it does. Many cities that I have visited have in place a smoking ban in public places. No business has been severly hurt by the ban. I say ban it in ALL public places. If you go to a bar to smoke...go outside or better yet, don't smoke at all.

Kunz is against it because he doesn't want to upset his croonies out at Kingpin lanes, yet he refuses to attend a public hearing on the matter. He doesn't want to hear what the people of Spfld has to say. His mind is made up and I hope the people in his ward makes up their mind when the election rolls around again.

Smoking effects everybody and worse for those of us who choose not to breath the second hand junk coming out of you're mouth!!!!!!!