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Comments

Ed Heath

You know this kind of thing exists along a spectrum, right? Are you lamenting the inspection of meat by the USDA? The added expense of highway dividers and guardrails? The fact you that can be arrested for yelling fire in a theatre (if there is no fire)? And you are absolutely right, the Twinkie is next, or at least on the list. Already we are really restrictive about where you can drink (no place where you might have to drive a car in the next few hours), and booze advertisements, to the point of making prohibition redundant. Still, the libertarian case for allowing drunk driving might be hard to make.

I will say that jobs like high iron work and logging have clearly identified risks and sometimes have a risk premium in their pay rates. It’s a little hard to make the case that second hand smoke is integral to the process of bartending like the risky height is integral to high iron work. Well, maybe at Chiefs…

I dunno, I read about parents forcing their kids to carry GPS’s in case the kid gets kidnapped. It’s hard to argue with our kooky notions of risk. Maybe if we pay smokers not to smoke, everyone will end up with an equal amount of misery. How much is nicotine withdrawal worth?

Ed

Rob

Actually, we did need a study to prove second-hand smoke is bad. The pro-tobacco lobbies have been claiming the "science is controversial" and Antarctica really isn't melt...wait, wrong scientific bullcrap, let me try again...and second hand smoke isn't bad for people and doesn't cause diabetes and doesn't affect the cardiovascular system.

More interesting, to me, is the effect the ban on cigarettes has on New York restaurants and bars.

A lot of people now refuse to patronize restaurants that don't ban smoking outright. I'm fond of calling up restaurants and checking. It drives home the point.

Sam M

Ed,

You ask whether second-hand smoke is integral to the job of bartending. Well, of course it is. If the service that the bar owner wants to provide is an environment in which people can smoke and drink. Clearly there is a market for that service and environment. A lot of people smoke. And a lot of them drink. And a lot of them want to do the two things at the same time. So yes. For that segment of the population--for that service--it is integral.

What the proposed ban says is that providing that service is so egregiously dangerous that we have to ban people from providing it. But why? We could make NASCAR a lot safer for the workers if we said they could not drive faster than 30 miles per hour. After all, all those fans say it's not about the crashes or the danger. It's about the strategy. Well, if every car has the same capacity, the strategy is still there, right? And the drivers are safer, right?

You say that these workers are different because they get a "premium" for embracing that danger. But bartending has a set of "premiums" too. There are no barriers to entry. Virtually no extensive training needed, except at the very high-end places. The hours can be very good--or at least flexible enough to make going to school possible. Which is why so many college students tend bar and wait table. And by the way, have you ever waited tables or tended bar? You can make enormous piles of money. Way more than working at McDonalds. Which is why people do it. There is, in fact, a pay premium compared to jobs that require similar training.

But back to "integral." You say that high iron work is inherently dangerous. Well, the smoking ban establishes that it is OK to wipe out an entire market for the sake of safety. That is, why not just ban the construction of high buildings? Sure, make exceptions for hospitals and apartments in crowded cities. But come on. Did society "need" the Space Needle any more than it needs smokey bars? Isn't it a little "selfish" for people to lust after a restaurant/apartment just because it has a view?

And come on. Do you really "need" perfectly pressed trousers? Because the crap all those workers breathe in at the dry cleaners is really deadly stuff. And I bet they get paid less than bartenders. So why do we allow society to "force" them to breathe it? Why not regulate the preference for pressed clothing out of existence?

Do I regret that the USDA inspects meat? Not necessarily. Free-market purists claim that some organization would rise to solve the problem. Perhaps they are right. But for now I'll stick to Grade A.

But does accepting that mean that I think it should be illegal to walk down the road to Farmer Bob's market and buy a quart of unpasteurized milk? Well... hell no. Drinking unpasteurized milk entails a certain amount of risk. Right? But I am a big boy.

But what about the workers? Well, what if I insist on milk extracted the old-fashioned way? By hand? Silly? Sure. But a lot of people are into that anti-corporate stuff. But isn't hand-milking dangerous? A guy could get kicked in the head.

So ban it.

OK. I can hear it already. These are all silly exapmles. So let's get real. Logging is EXTREMELY dangerous. Especially hand felling. Which is why a lot of companies have switched to mechanical felling. It's cheaper and safer.

Unless of course you are talking about Pennsylvania'a fantastic black cherry, some of the most expensive wood in the world. It is so expensive that almost all of the veneer quality logs are hand-felled, because mechanical felling very often "pops" the logs, meaning it ruins them. Which makes it more expensive in the long term.

Should we ban hand-felling of black cherry? I can get you a list of Pennsylvania loggers killed in recent years. Isn't it incredibly selfish of people buying high-end kitchens to put loggers at risk in that way? All so they can have affordable cabinets to brag about to their friends? Keep in mind that these loggers are dead. Not "at risk" in the long term, or in some other way "endangered" in a public health sense. They are real people with real names who died as a DIRECT RESULT of providing a service that is in no way "necessary" for society.

So ban it?

And to Rob: I encourage you to continue calling restaurants and bars to express your preference. Awesome. I hope they listen. Over 170 bars and restaurants in the Pittsburgh area have already complied with your wishes. And more do all the time.

So what's the problem? Seems to me like you have a large and growing list of places to go. Is this really an instance in which you feel compelled to use the force of government to get more of what you want?

As to whether this study was necessary or not, I still don't se why. The second-hand smoke study from the 1980s said SHS was dangerous. That's what the new one says.

You act like the only people opposed to a ban are tobacco executives. People who claim smoking is not bad for you. But that simply isn't true. Jacob Sullum, the guy I linked to, is a serious fellow. He is not a tobacco executive. And he does not question the fact that smoke is bad. He makes the case against the ban largely on the basis of property rights and common sense. But those are not arguments that ban supporters want to talk about. Because it is much more convenient to do what the Post-Gazette does and talk about "flirting with death" and "tobacco stained fingers."

My fingers are not stained with tobacco. I am not an executive at Phillip Morris. I do not want to kill people. I am not a lobbyist for the restaurant industry.

I just wish the PG would stop insisting that everyone who opposes a ban falls into those categories.

Sam M

Wow. Could the timing of this have been any better?

For those of you who thought the milk example was stupid:

http://www.newsvine.com/_news/2006/06/28/270973-amish-farmer-says-milk-law-opposes-beliefs

All those libertarian types? Paranoid. Seriously paranoid. Now if you could please hand over your tobacco and your cheese and head to the political reeducation center...

Come on. It's for the kids. Safety and all that. What kind of world would it be if everyone got to decide what kind of plants to smoke and which kinds of dairy products to consume? Anarchy. Sheer anarchy. For heaven's sake, you wouldn't want a world run by tobacco executives, would you? Or even worse, some kind of free-market, anti-homoginization Amish cretin? What's next? Some sort of loose cannon making his own venison jerky? What about the E-Coli! Christ almighty! The humanity! Somebody get me a helmet! And one for everyone else! And a jail cell for anyone who resists! Aaaahhhhhh!

Nosiree. Much better with newspaper commisars and public health nannies in charge.

Ed Heath

Sam,

Actually, I didn’t ask whether second hand smoke is integral to food/beverage service, I was more or less saying of course it is not. But (before you react) I *agree* with your take that some, maybe many, people will refuse to patronize an establishment if they can’t smoke, and some, maybe many, bar/restaurant owners feel they will be damaged to the point of closing their establishment if smoking is banned.

But the examination of risk is in fact real interesting. I would suggest that the risk from second hand smoke is qualitatively different than other risks, like logging or Nascar.

First, we don’t know how dangerous it really is, how five minutes or fifty years of breathing second hand smoke affects people (the point your Jacob Sullum is making). Diabetes? The big C? Who knows? We have statistics for logging and for Nascar, we can guess the risks there pretty well. With a known risk, you can talk about dollars, how much you would pay someone to assume the risk to get the thing (and yes, the job market is far from perfect, so loggers or others may not actually be paid fairly for their additional risks). People talk about banning smoking in part because they have no other rational remedies.

Second, unlike most other risks, second-hand smoke may reach out and touch other people (the “second-hand” part). Let’s say we are fine with smokers assuming whatever personal risk they want to assume. But now we may have to ask every person around the smoker how much risk they are willing to assume.

Please don’t take me for a hysteric, just because I think we should be willing to look at everything doesn’t mean I have any interest in telling you or anyone what they should do. Actually, *if* I am bothered or scared of second-hand smoke, I feel more comfortable moving my tail than in having someone tell me where to move my tail to.

But if you really want an opinion from me, I most favor information and choice. I think that having restaurants/bars post large signs outside their doors stating whether they allow smoking or not is probably the optimal solution. Patrons and employees could decide for themselves what risk they would take on. I wouldn’t be surprised if smoking bars charged more to compensate their employees, but that is neither here nor there.

For the record, I didn’t think the milk example was silly. Mostly, I don’t have a problem with the Amish selling “raw” milk (I have eaten cheese made from “raw” milk … it was ok, probably not worth it for the price). But I would feel most comfortable if I could be sure that all the customers of the Amish had the opportunity to view information on the chances of getting sick from it. Maybe it is kind of Darwinian of me, but as long as you know the odds, I don’t much care if you do something stupid… (if you are too dumb to be careful, do we really need you…) I just don’t want someone foisting their risks off on me without me knowing it, so yeah, pasteurize my milk.

I do hope the loggers of black cherry do get paid better.

Ed

Sam M

Ed,

Well now the ban supporters claim to have quantified it. They are now claiming 50,000 people die every year from SHS. Which as far as I can tell is not a change from earlier reports. Although the number did dip to 35,000 for a while. That seems like a large margin of error to me. But what can you do.

The problem, of course, is that ban supporters have no interest in letting anyone make a choice at all. Unless that choice involves something they like doing, like forcing a river guide to usher them through dangerous rapids.

That's why this report was generated. And how it was disseminated. To achieve political ends. Not to help people be more informed.

But your points are well taken. Now if you could only stop kissing the feet of Big Tobacco. (See today's Post.)

Amos the Poker Cat

Another comment thread that goes off the rails.

I saw the SG on the Lehrer News Hour. Even Lehrer, who I think is an ex-smoker, or at least has had some cardio-vascular problems, seem more that a little skeptical. PBS has audio and a transcript online at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/health/jan-june06/smoke_06-27.html


JIM LEHRER: No longer any question that secondhand smoke kills people?
DR. RICHARD CARMONA: The debate is over. It causes disease and kills people.
JIM LEHRER: Now, why do you say that? What evidence do you have that this actually does kill people?
DR. RICHARD CARMONA: The first report on this subject was issued by one of my predecessors in 1986. In the 20 years after that, there have been hundreds of research papers that have come out, original research being done, to delineate the connection between certain risk factors and secondhand smoke.
It is clear now that we have enough science to say that it causes significant disease, as well as death, across the board, from birth to the senior population.

Yet, he gave no numbers of deaths. In fact, the interview was fairly numbers free. Like Jacob Sullum, I can not find any of this data in either the summary or the final report.

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