August 7, 2005


Two Smoke-Free Years (NY Times, 8/07/05)

Two years ago last month, New York State banned smoking in bars and restaurants over the noisy protests of many owners and smokers. Jobs would be lost, they predicted, businesses would go belly up. The idea of the Clean Indoor Air Act was never really unpopular among most diners and drinkers, but to a vocal group and their powerful allies, it was a hazard to New York's financial health.

The results of the new law have begun to emerge, and the news is better than most people expected, in terms of economics as well as health. Some bars and restaurants have lost patrons, but most apparently have not. Even better, according to the August issue of Tobacco Control, a public health journal, people who work in bars and restaurants are suffering fewer of the nagging sore throats, runny noses and red eyes that plague those who hang around other people's cigarettes.

A study led by Matthew C. Farrelly, a health economics researcher at Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina, charted how nonsmoking workers began breathing easier after the law went into effect in July 2003. And while the study showed no significant changes in upper-respiratory symptoms like coughing, other cold-like symptoms declined a great deal.

Even more important, however, a study of saliva indicated a sharp drop in exposure to secondhand smoke. Cotinine, a substance produced by the body that indicates exposure to cigarette smoke, dropped 78 percent among those workers within the first year after the law went into effect. Secondhand smoke, once thought to be nothing more than a nuisance, has been linked to a variety of deadly health problems, including cancer and heart disease. Antismoking advocates say the declining levels of cotinine is evidence that New York State has started to save lives - those of workers, diners and the bar crowd. [...]

Though the law still stirs controversy (there are some real noisemakers out there), a state health department poll showed that more than 70 percent of New Yorkers like it.

Just getting rid of the stench is worthwhile--health benefits are a bonus.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 7, 2005 12:00 AM

They've got a similar initiative on the ballot here in Washington. I haven't decided whether I'm going to vote for it or not vote at all. My desire to be rid of the filthy things is warring with my desire to let businesses do what they will within their walls.

Posted by: Timothy at August 7, 2005 2:33 AM

You don't even go out. What is the benefit to you, imagining how clean the air must smell?

Posted by: joe shropshire at August 7, 2005 12:01 PM

"One has one's little pleasure for the day and one's little pleasure for the night: but one has a regard for health. 'We have invented happiness,' say the last men, and they blink."

Timothy, that Washington inititive not only bans smoking inside bars and restaurants but also bans smoking outdoors within 25 feet of the entrance of any building accessable to the public.

Posted by: carter at August 7, 2005 2:34 PM

It ought to just ban smoking in the state altogether.

Posted by: oj at August 7, 2005 3:19 PM

Yeah, but all those suppermodels are going to get fat.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at August 7, 2005 3:52 PM

Let me guess--OJ is an ex-smoker. They're the worst of the scolds.

Posted by: ted welter at August 7, 2005 3:54 PM


Nope, though old, I'm young enough that the Surgeon General had already made clear that they were deadly by the time I was old enough to try them, so I never did.

Posted by: oj at August 7, 2005 3:57 PM

The state won't ban smoking altogether because that would mean giving up revenues from cigarette taxes.

Posted by: carter at August 7, 2005 4:34 PM

raise other sin taxes.

Posted by: oj at August 7, 2005 5:58 PM

Carter: Here in Hennepin County, MN, they are "reconsidering" the recent smoking ban (which absurdly affected bars as well as restaurants) after a dramatic drop in state liquor tab revenues.

OJ: Surgeon General? An odd choice for you to cite as the definitive authority. Next you'll be touting the benefits of masturbation and graphic sex education for 3rd graders. Not that I don't think that cigarettes are Bad For You--but we can't make everything that is bad for you illegal. And in the case of cigarettes, we won't--they're even more American than apple pie.

Posted by: ted welter at August 7, 2005 9:47 PM

Maturbation isn't bad for you. Cigarettes serve no purpose and kill you. We'll ban them within a decade--it's an issue where the Christian Right can make common cause with the anti-business Left..

Posted by: oj at August 7, 2005 9:52 PM

Masturbation not bad for you? And I thought you were going papist. Banned within a decade? Various levels of government just make too much darned money from them for that to ever happen. They also help with the Social Security demographic problem--a typical smoker dies a lot more inexpensively than your average Alzheimer's patient who needs skilled care for years. Not to mention that trying to ban them would be the greatest boon to organized crime since Prohibition.

Posted by: ted welter at August 7, 2005 10:16 PM

It's easy enough for government to raise money and the hostility of both the governing and the opinion-making classes trumps mere financial considerations.

Posted by: oj at August 7, 2005 10:21 PM

Ted: That's not surprising. Bartenders will also tell you that smokers tip better.

OJ: Life itself is fatal. And you've never smoked, so you can't appreciate the benefits of smoking.

"We'll ban them within a decade"

This epitomizes the worthlessness of Republicans: you can't do anything about abortions, but you can join the horrible leftists to persecute harmless smokers.

Posted by: carter at August 7, 2005 11:20 PM


Not harmless, murderous. Not persecute, protect and protect each other from.

Posted by: oj at August 7, 2005 11:34 PM

The motivation of the anti-tobacco types isn't to 'protect' smokers, it's to make smokers miserable.

Posted by: carter at August 7, 2005 11:57 PM

Smoking kills them. Stopping them saves them. Marry a pulmonologist and see what you think of smokers "rights."

Posted by: oj at August 8, 2005 12:02 AM

The way things are going, I'm going to have to marry a pulmonologist or some other sort of doctor in order to afford to keep smoking.

Should alchohol also be banned? Because unlike smoking, which kills only those who partake of it, alchohol use often results in the deaths of innocent people.

Posted by: carter at August 8, 2005 12:14 AM

Alcohol has both health and social benefits that smoking does not and is too inextricably bound up in human culture to be easily removed, though during our one experiment with Prohibition there were tremendous benefits realized.

The political failure of Prohibition though just led to other attacks on alcohol, from drinking ages to drunk-driving, etc. and they've been spectacularly successful at demonizing alcohol, abuse as has the celebration of AA and other 12 step programs..

Posted by: oj at August 8, 2005 12:22 AM

Cigarettes will not be banned anytime soon, but the demographics of smokers aren't at all in the favor of the tobacco industry.
It will eventually become a rather lonely vice, at least in the U.S.

Ask smokers if starting smoking is a good idea, and if they'd like to be able to quit - most don't support the concept of smoking tobacco, even if they oppose banning the practice, for personal reasons.

As for myself, making smokers practice their vile arts in the outdoors is enough of a buffer.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at August 8, 2005 5:49 AM

As to health benefits, nicotine seems to prevent Alzheimer's disease, and not just by killing people before they go senile. And as to social benefits, well, the ritual and paraphernalia are better social props than a cocktail or a glass of wine, and appropriate to more circumstances, given that tobacco doesn't cloud (ahem) your judgement.

If you argue that these benefits are overwhelmed by the harm, you really don't have a leg to stand on in your defense of alcohol, which kills far more people at younger ages than tobacco ever did or ever will. Alcohol can also be soul-destroying in ways that tobacco just isn't.

Was it sacreligious for G.K. Chesterton to say Grace before lighting up a good cigar?

"To have a horror of tobacco is not to have an abstract standard of right; but exactly the opposite. It is to have no standard of right whatever; and to make certain local likes and dislikes as a substitute." G.K. Chesterton

I'm beginning to agree with those who say oj is really a leftist.

Posted by: ted welter at August 8, 2005 1:16 PM


Yes, that's why we keep imposing further limits--legal and social--on alcohol.

Posted by: oj at August 8, 2005 2:05 PM