Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

BIG BROTHER RUN AMOK – AGAIN

Posted by pzguru on Wednesday, May 9, 2007

So I was watching TV this evening and sy the glorious press coverage of the Howard County smoking ban, and it dawned on me that what I was watching was historic.  Not in  the sense of something that should be remembered, but in the sense of how out of control BIG BROTHER has gotten in the last few years with no signs of improving. 

 The owner of the Mi Casa restaurant spoke and indicated that he had already banned smoking in his restaurant, before the County law took effect.  No issue with him taking that action.  If he felt that was the right thing for his business and his clientele, then he has every right to do so.

 However, my issue with the “ban smoking everywhere band wagon” is that there are already many other establishments that have VOLUNTARILY banned smoking in their buildings.  That being the case, why is there a need for total abloishment?  It seems that the pro-smoker to anti-smoker status is about 40-60.  If all of the anti-smoker owned establishments banned smoking, and the pro-smoker establishments allowed smoking, wouldn’t that be a fair result?  Doesn’t that leave the choice to the business owner, as should be the case in a free-market society?  I understand the health concerns – employees who don’t to work in an establishment wouldn’t have to.  They’d have a choice.  Smokers wouldn’t be left out in the cold (literally), they’d have a choice.   SIDE NOTE:  the cardiologist who performed my heart scan informed me that the are minimal health concerns for someone who smokes less that 1 pack a day.  He said that amount is essentially no more risky than breathing the air outside because the body can process and counter the effects.  It’s only when people smoke more than their body can handle, that serious health impacts come into play.  I don’t know exactly how much second hand smoke equates to 1 pack a day, but it would be interesting to know.  Anyway – the employee choice factor over-rides the second hand smoke argument.

 The other oddity with the smoking/anti-smoking push and pull is that if it really came down to a pure health issue, then what other aspects of our lives and businesses will be intruded on next?  There are already several cities that are pushing to ban trans fats.  What’s next?  Ban all fast food establishments?  Mandate serving raw vegetables at movie theaters instead of popcorn?  Outlaw Halloween, Valentine’s Day, and Easter since those are candy infested events?  Why not abolish alcohol (oops – tried that already)?    

I realize that the people who support the smoking ban think they are doing the right thing.  But taking away freedoms and choices given to the people by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is not the right thing to do.  It’s a slippery slope that should be avoided. 

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33 Responses to “BIG BROTHER RUN AMOK – AGAIN”

  1. pzguru said

    Sorry about the typo in line #1. The word “sy” should be “saw”.

  2. To pz said

    First, disclaimer. I don’t smoke. I really like the benefits of the smoking ban, but I am still on the fence about the legal and free market implications of the ban.

    One thing is certain, the right to smoke isn’t granted to us by the Constitution or Bill of Rights. No where in these documents does it address “the right to kill oneself slowly.”

    A common argument for smoking bans is the interest of public health. This is the same justification given for vaccinating against measles and genital warts. It’s also the same justification for having the FDA tell us we cannot buy cheap drugs from Canada. Out of curiosity, how do you feel about other measures taken by the government in the interest of public health?

  3. pzguru said

    ToPZ – I am not generally in favor of the government mandating health behavior. Even vaccinations raise issues such as debilitating side effects in some children. How then is it ok for the government to force you to vaccinate your child when their is risk of disability or even death?

    The point of my post, which you are missing, is that where would the health doctrination end? Could they force me to eat my vegetables under penalty of jail? Who knows but the government needs to stop interjecting itself so much into these personal issues because that’s not the function of government.

    Never did I say that Bill of Rights or Constitution specifically mention the right to smoke. But they do mention “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. For some people, happiness might be smoking a cigarette, or a cigar, or a pipe. The government should not be squashing one person’s right to protect another person’s right. That’s why my suggestion is fair. People (patrons and employees) who want to choose to go to an establishment that allows smoking should be allowed to do so. People who don’t can also choose not to. Each sides get to choose and be happy. If there is something wrong with allowing everyone to be happy, please explain it to me.

  4. 21 jumpstreet said

    I don’t see any slippery slope concerns here, but I agree that the smoking ban is an unnecessary government intrusion. The government loves to interfere with the equilibrium of the free market, be it through drug laws, zoning laws, gay marriage bans, agricultural price supports, immigration laws, trade restrictions, the FDA or any number of other regulations. Anytime this is done, most people are worse off. So basically, our legislators use our tax dollars to make us worse off. I understand that our legislators have nothing but the best intentions, but unfortunately, they often end up hurting us.

    Pz- you need to get a new cardiologist. I am not doctor, but that guy sounds a little off to me.

  5. To pz said

    I agree with the advice to get a new cardiologist. He sounds like one of those quack doctors in the ’50s that used to do the cigarette ads.

    If only the bill of rights protected “death, liberty, and the pursuit of lung cancer,” the decision would be more clear cut.

  6. cindy vaillancourt said

    I have let my feet do the voting when it comes to restaurants that allow smoking for years — though so many of them seemed to think that separate sections or only smoking at the bar were adequate (sooo not true for me and more and more people with extreme sensitivites to smoke).

    Restaurant and club owners in some jurisdictions which have impemented smoking bans have experienced INCREASED business as more people who simply would not consider going out are re-entering the club and bar scene.

    That said – I too have some qualms about the government mandating complete bans- as much as i personally benefit and enjoy the more smokeless environment. I especially like the rules around some buildings which prohibit smoking withing 15 or 20 feet of the door — I really hate running that gauntlet.

    However – I can see sommunity interests in banning smoking from most establishments since “most” of them share common space/areas with other establishments … shopping centers, etc …. in those cases allowing smoking in one establishment does impact the others against their will.

    In the cases of completely free standing establishments, I can see an argument for continuing to allow them the choice.

    The issue of the impact on employees is also a matter of choice- though the free market could address this by having insurance companies “rate” the companies which allow smoking appropriately. Unfortunately, illnesses then developed by uninsured employees would end up being absorbed by society.

    Then we’re back to societal economic interests in eliminating the dangers of smoking from the community that we all utimately pay for.

    Cindy V.

  7. person said

    I think I generally support the ban in retaurants. I understand your worry that it could be a slippery slope however. While I was a student at Towson, they had talked about banning smoking in residence halls. It seemed a bit ridiculous, but the main reasons I think was because it was a fire hazard and the buildings didnt have good ventialation to let out the 2nd hand smoke. That eventaully passed, but now i see Towson is considering banning smoking EVERYWHERE on campus. So now, 18 year old girl who is a smoker has to walk across an empty campus at night, to some unknown location off campus to get her fix. (Also while I was at Towson, there was a rash of sexual assaults — or more — against women traveling alone at night).

    Still, its important to remember that the government here is not telling you cant smoke. You have every right to smoke, especially in your own home. Its when you are in public that i think the government can, and should, regulate where it is appropriate to smoke. If it is a question of a smoker vs a non smoker’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the non smoker wins because their pursuit is not harmful to others.

  8. 21 jumpstreet said

    How does a smoking ban lead us down a slippery slope? That notion is nothing more than fear mongering.

  9. jim-adams said

    PZQURU, The Government and the people who voted for this ban are giving you freedom, the freedom to live. The freedom not to go through the cure for lung cancer.

    The cure is to cut, to burn and to poision, so the patient can live, often, no more then months.

    Enjoy this freedom and spend it blowing smoke and moving mirrows if you want.

    Those who voted for the ban know better than you on this subject, and what they know is that freedom is for those who are welling to take responsibility serious.

    p.s.you may want to get a second opinion, from another cardiologist.

  10. pzguru said

    Person – I agree that PUBLIC spaces (such as government office buildings) are open to regulation. Restaurants and bars are privately owned, however, which is part of the reason that I feel that a mandatory ban is over-reaching and unnecessary.

    21 Jumpstreet – saying “slippery slope” is not fear mongering. It’s reality. What is the next thing that the government is going to ban? Please re-read my post. I cited many other consumable products that could be classified as “unhealthy” and could therefore be open to future bans. I understand that eating chocolate does not cause cancer. Not making that analogy. However, and to rieterate my point in the original post – if an establishment can choose to allow smoking or be smoke free, then patrons and employees have the choice whether to go to the establishment or not. I’m advocating PEOPLE making a choice as opposed to GOVERNMENT dictating. Since many establishments are already going smoke free, or contemplating it due to demand from potential patrons, then there really is not a need for a full fledged ban. Non-smokers are getting there choice. However, with a full fledged ban, smokers (whether you agree with their choice to smoke or not) do not have a choice. There are NO establishments where they can eat and have a cigarette if they so choose.

    Jim Adams – I really didn’t understand what point you were trying to make. The people who voted for this ban are giving me the freedom to live???? Huh? You’re not addressing the points and questions I presented in my post. See my comment above to 21 Jumpstreet.

    As for my cardiologist – I think he’s better qualified to address health impacts of smoking thatn me or any of the commenters who have labeled him a quack. The fact is the human body can consume and process substances and not necessarily be harmed. For example – if you drink alcohol, your liver filters the blood and the body gets rid of the waste. Excessive alcohol consumption, however, can cause serioud harm to the liver since it can only handle so much of the substance. The lungs operate in the same way. Every day people breath in particles and substances in the air which the lungs process and the body is fine. When too much bad air is consumed, then there is the potential for a problem. My doctor simply stated that smoking less than a pack a day is the threshold between how much of those substances that the body can tolerate before the risk of harm occurs. I hope that cleared it up a little.

  11. John B. said

    pzguru,

    There are people even better qualified to weigh in on this issue than your cardiologist and the folks here: people like the Surgeon General.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/27/AR2006062700710.html

    I think that it’s great to have a conversation about “Big Brother,” but your argument falls kind of flat when it seems like you’re basing your opinions on someone who’s ignoring a wealth of well-researched, peer-reviewed medical material that clearly indicate the health risks of both first-hand and second-hand smoke.

    We’re all used to the manipulation of numbers and misinformation based on limited data. As Disraeli (allegedly) said, “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” With almost every position you can take, you’ll find “facts” and “statistics” that don’t hold up. There are some issues, though, where the evidence is pretty darn sound. I’d say that this is one of them.

    My two-cents.

  12. Jim Adams said

    Well said, John B., well said

  13. Merryland said

    Might as well face it — smoking is on the way out. Eating chocolate may or may not be bad for you (depending on the type you eat and how much of it) but the smell of chocolate definitely isn’t bad for another person sitting in the same room as the chocoholic.

    I’ve been to so many restaurants in Howard County the past several years where they have the walled off smoking areas around the bars, and they absolutely refuse to keep the doors closed between the smoking and non-smoking sections. So essentially the old rule hasn’t been enforced at all. Plus you have these idiots bringing children into the smoking areas (children who don’t have a voice or choice in staying out of those smoke chambers) and rather than bring these people up on child abuse charges, let’s just disallow smoking in all eating establishments. Simple solution.

    My company has also banned smoking from its entire property, to include outside the front door or even inside your own car if it’s in the parking lot or anywhere on company property. All I can say is, it’s about time.

  14. pzguru said

    JOHN B – I appreciate your two cents. I think you missed my overall point that EVERYONE should have a choice. If smokers want to smoke and eat, they should have that choice. Your rights should not trump theirs, and vice versa. These bans are denying them their right to choice and the government is dictating behavior. I have yet to hear one commenter address those points. As for my cardiologist, I think the fact that he’s a cardiologist speaks to his credibility. He didn’t get to be a doctor on mere luck. And, as you so aptly pointed out, facts can be distorted, such as anti-smokers overblowing the negative effects of smoke or secondhand smoke. Not saying they do, but that’s as plausible as you thinking my cardiologist is playing with facts. And why would he anyway – he could be sued by me if what he was saying was wrong or blatantly false.

    MERRYLAND – Same thing as John B. I hear your position, but you have not addressed or explained how or why BOTH sides can’t be given their own choice so EVERYONE is happy. I think each bar/restaurant owner should have the right to decide how to run their establishment. There would be plenty of owners who would, without government mandate, make their establishments smoke free. So, no need for a government mandate.

  15. Merryland said

    PZ… My response would be — order takeout.

    My decision not to smoke in public doesn’t infringe on anyone’s rights, while your decision to smoke in public actually does. Result = government mandate necessary because people are unwilling or unable to voluntarily resist their addiction to nicotine.

  16. jim adams said

    pz, your still mad, that your Mother smacked your hand, when you wanted that cookie, how stupid of that Cop to give you a ticket, and Society, God!, how cruel to make you strap youself in when you are driving.

    How rotten of the world, why do you have to work, it cuts into you freedom, and then, oh no, taxes. Where does it stop. The next thing you know, they, that great master of all, will want you to pay your bills.

    pz, you were born to be free, not responsible to your self, and God forbid, to anyone else. I see it now, thank you pz.

  17. pzguru said

    Jim – It sounds like you’ve been smoking those wackie cigarettes again. Your ramblings make no sense whatsoever.

    Merryland – It’s the government’s action that is infringing on some people’s rights. And, a privately owned restaurant or bar is NOT a public space. Furthermore, and you’re still missing this point, is that if you have smoke-free establishments to choose from, then why can’t smokers have smoke-allowed establishments to choose from. Nobody would be forcing you to eat at an establishment that allows smoking. You would choose whether or not eat at such an establishment. Why is that point so hard for people to understand?

    Here’s another thought. If health is the ultimate concern here, then why doesn’t the government just outlaw growing tobacco entirely? Why this half-baked effort to “improve health”?

  18. jim adams said

    Pz, I didn’t expect it to make sense to you, but my hope is that someday it will

    Merryland, you comments were good, good for their common sense, rational, and maturity. Thank you.

  19. Carter said

    Who cares if the slope is slipper or not? You’re still going downhill. The idea of improving “public health” (whatever that means) by violating the rights of private property owners is absurd and wrong.

  20. jim adams said

    Carter,

    Life spans improving, quality of life improving, is that going down hill?

    Public health is concerned with threats to the overall health of a community based on population health analysis.

    Does that sound like something that if it were improved on would violate any one’s rights?

    Help me out here Carter.

  21. John B. said

    PZ – I didn’t miss your overall point, but I didn’t exactly address it either. Let me see if I can do that while better articulating my point of view.

    As far as I can tell, your primary focus is on the civil liberty issue, while mine is on the public health side. Let’s go from there…

    Although my general comfort level with government intervention in my personal life isn’t terribly high, it is VERY high when it comes to issues that improve public health.

    In your comment to Merryland you wonder “how or why BOTH sides can’t be given their own choice so EVERYONE is happy.” Short answer? Because it’s a public health issue: you can’t.

    (My point is going to loop around, so stay with me for a moment…)

    Because of compulsory health policies (on waste disposal, sanitation, vaccinations, etc.), infectious diseases aren’t a major concern for developed nations such as ours.

    This control of infectious disease is only successful because the health policies are compulsory. Sure not everyone likes it, but it works. When folks in Britain decided to skip their measles vaccinations (which are encouraged but not required) there was a resurgance of measles.

    So that’s infectious disease. Now, we certainly COULD just say: “hey, we’ve pretty much beaten the nasty infectious diseases that have plagued us for centuries, let’s call it a day,” but as a society, we’ve chosen to push forward and focus on the other big biological killers: heart and pulomonary diseases and the “Big C.”

    Second-hand smoke has been identified as a threat to public health. No, it’s not as scary-sounding as Polio, but the medical community has come to a consensus*. You don’t have to like it, and it may spur on fears of “what’s next?,” but I’d ask that you try to take it as its own issue for now.

    If you were just smoking in your home alone and someone tried to take away your right to smoke, that would certainly be a civil liberties issue. But when you throw other people into the mix, the game changes. In smoking in enclosed public places, you physically harm others. That’s why as important as your rights may be, the rights of the victims carry more weight.

    You asked “why is there a need for total abloishment?” I’m just going to come back to my earlier point and say that when you’re trying to improve public health, voluntary measures don’t cut it. Most of us are too short-sighted and too selfish to recognize how seemingly innocuous actions can to major damage to others.

    Regarding your cardiologist: I work in a major medical center and I just want to say that although docs are very bright and want to help their patients, they’re not always right. Far from it in plenty of cases. That’s why a second opinion is always a big help!

    Another two-cents 🙂

    John B.

    *If you don’t believe what has been said about the topic, please do some research on your own. It’s easy to base opinions on what an authority figure has said, but if you’re honestly interested in learning the ins and outs of the issue – check it out for yourself. When presented with the evidence and see what you come up with.

  22. Carter said

    Jim, I agree that lifespans and quality of life are improving, and that these are excellent developments. I would however question how much this has to do with efforts of public health campaigns. People tend to take actions that will improve their health because there is such a strong incentive there.

    I support public health insomuch as it’s about education, but I draw the line when public health efforts infringe on the rights of people and what they are allowed to do on their own private property (in this case in the restaurants and bars that they own).

    Ultimately, I think that people should be able to decide whether or not they want to live healthful lives or if they want to smoke.

    The slippery part comes in when you say it’s ok for the government to regulate behavior on private property whether the goal is the improved health of the individual or the collective. I

    f it’s OK to prohibit smoking, then why not prohibit trans fats? What about saturated fat? Foods with high sodium, cholesterol, or sugar? Is it OK to ban these things? Doing so would probably improve average life spans and reduce things like heart disease and diabetes.

  23. Uh oh for Merdon! said

    Charges of wrongdoing will stick!

    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/bal-te.md.audit13may13,1,1913296.story?ctrack=2&cset=true

  24. Will stick in the minds of people who want it to stick. In the end it will be shown that Merdon didn’t do anything and the Sun won’t print a word of it…

  25. Young at Heart said

    Carter,unfortunately, almost all research shows that people do not take actions that will improve their health simply because good health is a strong incentive. If that were true, would there really be such a huge number of people with heart disease, obesity, and diabetes? People change lifestyle habits slowly, painfully, and generally because they’re forced to. My husband, for instance, only stopped smoking when it was no longer allowed in his place of work and it became increasingly socially unacceptable among his peers and with his children.

    PZ, this is meant as no disrespect to your doctor, but my father-in-law used to be very fond of this joke. What do you call the person who finished last in his medical school class? Answer: “Doctor”.

  26. timactual said

    “*If you don’t believe what has been said about the topic, please do some research on your own.”

    I’ve done a little, and so far the threat seems overblown. From personal experience, I can say with some confidence that if second-hand smoke were nearly as deadly as it is claimed, bartenders would have the lifespan of a fruitfly, particularly those that smoke. If I recall correctly(and please correct me if I am wrong) there have been no studies done on this particular high-risk group. I wonder why.

  27. jim adams said

    Timactual, welcome back, haven’t seen you post for a long time.

  28. John B. said

    Hey Tim! There have been studies done on the bartender/employee issues. Some scientifically done, others… well not so much. Here’s one that I found interesting:

    http://www.cleanlungs.com/education/bartenders.html

    Second-hand smoke isn’t Ebola or the Bubonic Plague, but the conclusions based on the HHS data from the last few decade indicate that it significantly increases lung cancer and pulmonary disease. Sure, that’s not scary enough to meet a lot of peoples’ “clear and present danger” threshold, but it’s still pretty important.

    John B.

    P.S. Young At Heart – Nicely said!

  29. PZGURU said

    Ok – I’ve got some time to catch back up on this.

    Young At Heart – I got a good laugh out of that joke. It’s a good one. I take no offense to it at all. I think some people misunderstand what he was saying to me, but I think I’ve tried as best I can to explain it.

    Carter – thank you – you understand what I’m saying.

    John B (10:38 a.m.) – I think you’re doing good at presenting factual information. I just think that your conveying an off-based analogy. Smoking, or second hand smoke, and contagious diseases are not the same thing. I do understand that second hand smoke can POTENTIALLY have a negative health effect on nearby people. However, if the only people breathing second hand smoke are other smokers in an establishment that might happen to allow smoking, then who exactly is being negatively impacted? Not you, because you’re in the establishment that prohibits smoking. See my point? As a side note, even vaccinations are not a be all end all to diseases, since the diseases ultimately evolve/mutate into new strains, and many children suffer severe reactions from vaccinations (a perfect example of a moral dilemma situation – force parents to vaccinate their child to protect the “greater good” but their child ends up in a vegetative state).

    Yes, I do put civil liberties ahead of some causes. However, in this case, BOTH civil liberties and public health can be maintained if people are allowed to CHOOSE. I know that choosing to smoke may not make sense to some people, but people have the right to choose (or they should).

    Time to drink a beer and have a triple cheeseburger – before they get outlawed too!

  30. Jim Adams said

    PZ, if we outlaw beer and triple cheeseburgers, it will only be in public places. You can still enjoy both in the privacy of your own home.

    I agree, Carter does get your point, and Carter makes the point – why not prohibit other items.

    We are fortunate, more often than not, If an item is prohibited, it is by a law passed by office holders,who base their decision on what they preceive as public opinion and it’s effects on their ability to get reelected.

    Our laws are passed more often without the intent to supress in a harmful way, but to protect. Of course there have been exceptions in the pass and I am sure there will be exceptions in the future, but the smoking bane is not one of these exceptions. Not smoking in a public place is not just obeying the law, but showing respect for those who share that public space, as will as a show of respect for the most private of properties the human body.

    I love my freedom as much as you do PZ.

  31. OK with Clean Air said

    I am OK with a smoking ban. Smoking is addictive and interferes with rational decision-making. Anyone who smokes has shown themselves to be either incapable of making good decisions or trapped by an addiction. Unless a smoker is willing and able to pay 100% of the societal costs associated with his smoking, society can step in.

  32. PZGURU said

    Jim – I’m sure you know the saying: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Not saying that we’re headed for hell, but the moral of the saying is that good intentions are sometimes the cause of bad things.

    OK with Clean Air – I think you’re stretching a bit. I know many smokers, including most/all of this Country’s founding fathers, and I wouldn’t dare suggest that they are incapable of good decision making (although I would probably agree about the addiction part of your statement).

    Some smokers do so recreationally, as did I for a number of years. I smoked basically a pack a week. Hence, why my doctor said (and my tests proved it) that I have no harmful effects from such minimal smoking. And, there are many people who smoke a lot more than I did, and never get cancer.

    Let’s take your suggestion about being able to pay 100% of the societal costs, or else society can step in, and now apply that to, lets say, alcohol. So anyone who drinks should chip in for the costs of DUI accidents, DWI accidents, hazing rituals, domestic abuse stemming from intoxication, etc, or else alcohol should be banned. Does that make sense? I vote “NO”.

  33. Jim Adams said

    I doubt the road to hell is paved. Who in Hell would ever want to be accused of doing the right thing.

    Intents are for the innocent, the naive, and lawyers.

    My use of the word in the phrase “without intent” makes reference to the absence of, not the inclusion of intent.

    The key word in your expression is “sometimes”, indicating that intent may create harm. This is your thought not mine. You included intent as if it may result in harm.

    I included the word intent, to indicate the purpose is NOT to harm.

    I think we should go back to what I see as your orginal intent, which I believe was to discuss “control”. Every one of us will measure control in different ways. I have no problems with controls that I see as those placed on us for our benefit, and that is how I see the smoking ban, a control for our benefit.

    The type of contol we should worry about is what Freemarket is discussing on his web site. It looks as if we have an incompetent President who wants to be a Dictator.

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