Stop the Smoke

Ironically, after some friends and I fled a smoke-filled bar on Friday night, I read about proposed smoking bans in St. Paul and Minneapolis.

It seems there’s a fairly strong push to ban smoking in bars and restaurants as a public health measure. The negative effects of second-hand smoke have been well documented, but recent studies show the effects for short-term exposure can be just as deadly. A study reported in Time magazine last week found a 40% drop in the number of heart attacks when the city instituted a smoking ban. When a court order lifted the ban 6 months later, the number heart attacks bounced back.

From the smoker’s side it’s an argument of freedom and letting the people decide. They argue that government shouldn’t be involved and that people will decide simply by where they spend their money. If non-smokers stayed away from smokey bars and there was enough economic pressure, restaurants and bars would voluntarily ban smoking.

It seems logical enough to me, except that we’re not talking about a simple matter of choice. We’re talking about a health risk. One argument in the articles I read compared it to aspestos in a restaurant falling onto people’s food from the ceiling and the government doing nothing about it. The other side countered by saying that’s a false comparison — aspestos is illegal, cigarettes are not. Which leads me to the question why not? We ban drugs that have a harmful effect on the body, why not cigarettes? I don’t know of any positive effect smoking can give that might outweigh their negative effects (alcohol, on the other hand, has tremendous negative social effects, but it does have positive health effects when people drink responsibly). I don’t think it’s even possible to smoke responsibly.

But rather than just rant about it in my blog, I did a quick Google search to find the e-mail addresses of the St. Paul City Council members. A minute later my voice had been heard. The Internet: Is there anything it can’t do?

4 thoughts on “Stop the Smoke”

  1. In favor of a smoking ban

    To: Mayor R.T. Rybak From: Nick Ciske Subject: In favor of a smoking ban City wide or state wide… whatever can be done! After watching my father fight his addiction for most of his life (he’s now quit) and my…

  2. Well, it’s not even clear cut on the rights side of things, as it’s not just a smoker’s right to smoke, etc., but it butts in on other people’s rights that have to inhale that stuff. I’ve always been a believer in the idea that your rights last right up to the point where they start interfering with another’s.

    The ban is probably a good thing in restaurants and other indoor areas, but it’s a bit ridiculous in Duluth where you aren’t even allowed in a public park. Please.

  3. I love having no smoking in the restaurants! When I was in MN it didn’t really bother me to be around cigarette smokers (my mom smoked & I smoked for awhile in high school so I was kind of used to it). When I came out here I kept asking to be seated in the “no smoking” section out of habit; the waitresses all thought I was strange. Anyhoo, when I went back to MN to a restaurant I was like gaging on the cigarette smoke. It was so strong and I totally stunk afterwards.

    I think fewer people smoke as much out here as a result of the smoking ban. I’d be interested to see how much $$$ the tobacco companies are purhing into stopping a ban.

    I had an idea…it’s not fully thought out yet, but I thought I’d bounce it off of you. You know how restaurants have to maintain a license to sell liquor? What if they also had to maintain a license to allow smoking. That way, businesses that thrive on that smokey hang-out kind of atmosphere could still keep their stankiness. Businesses that didn’t could provide an atmosphere where people can actually breathe. So, it still allows some choice on the business owners’ part and on the customer, but it just makes it more likely that more places will be clean.

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