J’aime fumer en France !

Anti-smoking activists in the US have had great success limiting the freedoms of smokers. California seems to have led the way for many other states and cities looking to just save one person from the dangers of second hand smoke. HoT commented about the latest ban in New Jersey here and here, and I read the articles thinking, well it is at least not Paris, Spain and Italy. The day that smoking in public is illegal in those places will truly mean the end, right?

Tonight as I sat finishing laundry, I caught up on some reading. My favorite place to start in the paper is the Op/Ed section. I think that if you want to know what’s going on in the world, there is no better place to start. Most people don’t develop their own opinions anymore- they just borrow from whomever they believe to be “smart” and parrot the “news.” You can always find tomorrow’s buzzword in today’s opinion page. Well, as I stubbed out (what I thought was) my last cigarette of the night, I found this article in the NYT and had to cross Spain off my list. Spain has joined the anti-smoking crusade. The article was translated from spanish, so I am sure some really funny nuances were missed, but I really enjoyed it. Javier Marias really hit home in a few places.

Consideration for one’s fellow man was addressed:

Many of my friends are smokers too; many are not. But we have always managed to come to terms by asking if anyone minds our smoking – without the government’s intervention.

Government hypocrisy was addressed:

But the government’s argument that it is seeking to improve public health is hypocritical. The Spanish Treasury takes in colossal revenues, direct and indirect, thanks to this pernicious habit. Every time the government needs to find a way to finance some exceptional expense, a new cigarette tax is levied. The implicit message to Spanish citizens is this: “Smoke! Smoke more – so we can balance our budget.”

And the ridiculous nature of the argument was addressed:

Nowhere have I ever heard, for example, that cars are obliged to carry, just above the driver’s-side door, a warning, like those on cigarette boxes, that “Driving a car may cause death, grisly amputations, quadriplegia and involuntary manslaughter.” I have also never seen anyone lay blame on sunbathers who go to the beach and almost drown, or mountain climbers who get lost and fall off cliffs, and whose rescue incurs a tremendous expense and endangers the lives of others. Nobody is forcing anyone to swim in the ocean or climb mountains, just as nobody is forcing smokers to smoke, and yet the latter are regarded practically as criminals.

In the end, Spain has a little more sense than we do. According to Senor Marias, its ban is not absolute:

…after tremendous protests and battles over the law, that is – in establishments of less than 1,100 square feet (spaces that are too small to be divided into smoking and nonsmoking areas), the owner can decide if the place will be smoke-free or not.

I wish that Dallas had decided it that way.

My city is also a no bar/restaurant smoking city, and while I am not a closet smoker, I only smoke in the evenings. The evenings are when I spend my money. Before the ban in Dallas, I might have been smoking in a local bar, paying way too much for a drink while playing a spirited game of Golden Tee. Now, I don’t bother. I stay home knowing that they cannot stop me from lighting up here. (Unless my employer goes Weyco on me) Sorry, I got a little personal there and a lot off topic.

Back to Spain: The writer summed up the point rather nicely with words that could address any topic.

A totalitarian state is one that sticks its nose where it doesn’t belong and attempts to intervene in every aspect of its citizens’ private lives, and many governments today, whether left, right or center, have developed this practice of behaving like busybodies. The old notion that only dictatorships can be totalitarian seems terribly naïve nowadays. And that is the worst thing about this antismoking law and others of the same ilk: they unfortunately prove that totalitarianism is no longer incompatible with the democratic systems that once guaranteed our freedoms

Oh well, France is left, right?

15 Comments
  1. I agree with the piece. The most egregious of issues is the encroachment into private property. Although I will almost always choose a smoke free place to eat I would rather that that status was the property owners decision. Now, having said that, smokers could take a large step in how they are viewed if they did not treat the world as their ashtray. I know that lots of people throw trash around but it is the attitude that their (smokers) refuse is not litter that is confounding. You don’t role your window down and throw out a coffee cup or dirty diaper and think it’s OK, you know it’s wrong. Many, too many, smokers actually think that their refuse is ‘different”.

  2. “[…]The excess risk increases with increasing exposure. Furthermore, other published meta-analyses of lung cancer in never-smokers exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke at the workplace have found a statistically significant increase in risk of 12–19%. This evidence is sufficient to conclude that involuntary smoking is a cause of lung cancer in never-smokers.”

    http://www-cie.iarc.fr/htdocs/monographs/vol83/02-involuntary.html

    Aside from statistics like these, there are other good reasons to discourage people from smoking:

    http://www.berkeley.edu/news/berkeleyan/1998/0916/smoking.html

    I personally dont feel offended when in a bar around people who smoke, and though I dont advocate blanket bans on “public smoking”, I often appeciate the lack of having to wash my hair every time I step out of a room in which there are smokers present…

  3. I wouldn’t be so sure about being forced to not smoke in your home. If the government can tell a privately owned business what it can and can’t allow inside its walls, then at some point they will be telling you what you can and can’t do inside your own home.

    Personally I do not enjoy being around smokers, but most eating places I go to have non-smoking and smoking sections and that’s fine with me. If I go to a bar it is my job to understand that I might be around smokers. I can chose to go or not. But it is my responsibility, not the governments job to make that decision. We all know that smoking can be bad for your health and if around enough second-hand smoke it could be bad for your health. I doubt very much, however, that for the brief time that most people are around the second-hand smoke in bars it is going to devastate their health. Probably eating the food from those restaurants/bars or the alcohol will be much worse than the second-hand smoke to your health.

  4. i was in montreal recently, thier ban goes into effect this may. not sure if it is a city-wide ban or all of quebec.

    personally, though i recognize it as a slippery slope and have reservations.. it has made my going out here so much better in california that i support it.

    i thouroughly understand why you do not. just sayin, that’s all. and terry, it depends on how much time you spend in bars ;-l

  5. It is not an issue of public health and to support anti-smoking laws because it makes your life more pleasant is very shallow.

    The issue is property rights. A bar or restaurant is private – NOT public – property, as is an office building or any other facility not paid for with tax payer money.

    People as individuals are responsible for their own health – not the government. If you as an individual do not want to eat or drink with smokers then spend your money at a non-smoking establishment.

    Capitalistic market forces will reflect the will of the people. The demand for smoking or non-smoking establishments will determine how many of what type the local market can support.

    What happens when the public health Nazis decide to ban fried foods from these “public” establishments?

  6. I agree with the above comment on smokers littering; the number of ciggarette butts around is ridiculous. Regardless, streets are public property, and bars aren’t. The government can f*** off of the bars.

  7. I go against the standard libertarian grain when it comes to smoking in a public, enclosed area. There is no way for employees to work there without breathing in 8 hours (or more) of intoxicating fumes. And while a bar is a bar, many bars and clubs have “one of a kind” attractions such as concerts that a non-smoker cannot attend if they wish to stay in smoke-free areas (for health reasons or otherwise). Therefore, the freedom of non-smokers is restricted by the permission of smoking in the building. This is similar to the idea of “freedom of speech” including slanderous acts or other damaging forms of speech that intrude on the individual liberties of another. Finally, speaking of logistics rather than theory here, is it really that hard for a smoker to go outside with it?

  8. Response to #7.
    Again, you are confusing public and private areas. A place of employment is a private area (unless you work for the government) and the owner – not the government – should have the right to determine if it is smoking or non-smoking.
    As citizens seeking employment, we have the right to choose what type of workplace to apply for a job at. The freedom of non-smokers is in no way restricted by permitting indoor smoking — you have the freedom to choose to enter or not. To say that this denies you access to “one-of-a-kind” attractions is another distortion of the situation. I enjoy live concerts but often find the volume of the music too loud for my tastes – and probably damaging to my hearing as well. It is my choice however to attend or not.

  9. response to #4

    “it depends on how much time you spend in bars”

    Well of course it does, but it is your choice and responsibility to determine how long you will stay in a bar or any private place where people are smoking.

  10. I am sort of an old fashioned smoker. I only smoke after work. I never smoke in the car or at a dinner table. I refuse to walk while carrying a cigarette. I would never dispose of a butt anywhere except an ashtray. I think all those things are tacky. I also think it tacky for people to leave their fast food bags and cups everywhere except trashcans. I think that is gross when mothers leave their babies’ soiled diapers in bathrooms. You see, when you talk about butts on the ground, you are not talking about smoking. You are talking about bad behavior, and that is better added to a discussion about litter.

  11. I have nothing but contempt for the unctuous hypocrisy of smokers who claim they only smoke when it doesn’t bother anyone. Everywhere I go, if smoking is allowed in a given enclosed area, you can be sure a smoker will light up – and not only that, they will not ask you if it bothers you, and if you politely ask them to move five feet away to the great outdoors they react belligerently as though you had insulted their mother. They force you to breathe their disgusting smoke and then claim their liberties are being infringed when the rest of us try to get them to stop doing that. I haven’t the slightest sympathy for them. Jack up a 2000% tax on their filthy cigarettes and ban smoking within half a mile of an inhabited area. The rest of us have rights too.

  12. Personally I do not enjoy being around smokers, but most eating places I go to have non-smoking and smoking sections and that’s fine with me.

    Having a smoking section in a bar/restaurant is like having a peeing section in a pool.

    If I go to a bar it is my job to understand that I might be around smokers. I can chose to go or not.

    Exactly, it is not the gov’ts place.