Friday, October 28, 2005

The Nanny State

One evening, Monkey, AG, Z, the Flying Dutchman and I were sitting at U Zpěváčků and having a couple of drinks. The bar was particularly smoky that night and our conversation naturally turned to the trend of banning smoking in pubs.


Dutch lives in Ireland where smoking has been banned in workplaces (including bars) since March 2004. Dutch is a heavy smoker and he thinks that the non-smoking legislation is great because it forces him to smoke less as well as protecting non-smokers from 2nd-hand smoke.


The other four of us argued that the non-smoking legislation is a pile of shite because it is just another example of the government telling us what to do. I explained to Dutch that we completely understood what he was saying and that non-smoking environments are indeed very pleasant, but that our fundamental problem with the legislation is that we are adults and we can make our own decisions and the government has no right to tell us what to do, even if it is allegedly in our own best interests.


And Dutch did not get it. He kept going on and on about the health benefits of the ban and refused to even consider the wider implications of being denied our liberties. He was being ridiculously stubborn and the conversation became boring because it got so repetitive.


It was on later reflection that I realised that this is a much bigger problem, that Dutch’s attitude towards the smoking ban is indicative of the willingness of so many people to be told what to do by their governments. It seems that most people still believe that governments act for the good of the people, that they only want to look after us, and that all we have to do is follow their rules and everything will be all right. It is very scary to realise that people really are that stupid.

25 comments:

sinister steve said...

it really should be left up to the free market. if there is a market for non smoking bars they will open and they will be successful. to be honest most people (smokers) i talk to like the idea of having to go outside to smoke just for the simple fact that their clothes dont reek of smoke.

sinister steve said...

i see your friend's (Dutch) side of this argument. you freedom to smoke infringes on others to be smoke free. although they do not have to be at the bar, neither do smokers. once again this is best left up to the free market.

chatsy Malone said...

Quebec is the only province left in Canada which allows people to smoke in bars and restaurants. However this will change soon I believe next year? I think smoking goes with drinking in the bar athmostphere. People who don`t drink and smoke don`t really go to bars unless there is a live band or show going on. Why do we need all these bloody laws. If a bar is too smoky then leave and go somewhere else. Simple as that. there are loads of bars all over the place and I have a tendency to bar hop, go from bar to bar rather than stay in the same place.
Banning smoking from bars is a real pain in the ass. When I went to Toronto this summer, I could see all the naughty stuff going on in the bars because there was no smoke to cover the air and sight in front of me. I was also annoyed that I would have to leave Tits all by herself, climb up stairs to stand outside while blocking the sidewalk with all the other smokers. There was no smoking area except at the phoenix, which was in the back and entailed walking down these metal grill type stairs. I stood at the top and was forced to come down after I explained that I have high heel stillettos and am afraid to get one caught in the grille thingy and fall down. The bouncer claimed it was dangerous for me to stand up there and I kept fighting back that it was dangerous for me to walk down the rickety metal stairs.

Skeeter said...

I agree with letting owners decide what they should and shouldn't allow in there own bars.
For example my main pub, Barley's (www.barleystaproom.com), in Knoxville limits smoking to people sitting at the bar until 9:00pm downstairs because many of the patrons are families until about that time and they are there to have a good meal and go home. Afterwards it's generally a younger crowd and they're there to have a good time, drink, smoke, listen to music, etc.
The point is they do that themselves, they're not told to do so and it works for them.
What I would like to see Barley's do is ban cigars and pipes outright. Not only is it a horrible smell, much worse than cigarette's, it burns me to see a 25 year old smoking a pipe...What are you Basil Rathbone? Oh you're just an f-ing grad student, I see..well thanks Basil, I've got a pounding headache now and I just may vomit. Why don't you go to the Cigar shop and smoke that crap over there?
Sorry I know that was a bit off your topic.
I think generally legislation like that comes about because it's a perceived good, protecting innocents and such, so people go along with it.
You need business owners that have some moxie like some I saw in New York, or was it Boston?, and allow patrons to smoke anyway.

Audie said...

Weah weah weah. No sympathy from me.

MM, the government is not "telling you what to do," it's telling you what NOT to do, in a particular setting -- i.e., the workplace. What, I wonder, is your view on sexual harassment laws or policies in the workplace? What would you think if I said, "I'm a grownup, as are the women at my workplace. I don't need some stupid government to tell me I can't grope and fondle my coworkers whenever I feel like it, even after they've informed me that my advances are unwanted. To do so would be to deny me my liberties. I can't believe people are so STUPID as to think the government is doing us any good by outlawing such behavior."

I would hope you'd think I was nuts.

Or should we say, "It's OK to sexually molest strangers at a bar, because sexually molesting strangers, as CM says, just "goes with drinking in the bar athmostphere (sic)."

And you know what, if women don't like to be repeatedly groped by me at work, then they can go work "somewhere else. Simple as that" (again using CM's words). I've worked lots of different jobs. They can too.

Sinister Steve said...

Audie,

It's a tough call. In one case you are violating one person's right to smoke while in another case you're violating one person's right not to have to breathe second hand smoke. Also you have to take into consideration the workers. Do they have a right to work in a smoke free environment or can they voluntarily give that right up? What gets me is why can't a person have the right to open an establishment that allows smoking if its patrons and workers both realize it is not smoke-free? I still think this is a free market issue and cannot be compared to sexually molesting someone.

Audie said...

"In one case you are violating one person's right to smoke while in another case you're violating one person's right not to have to breathe second hand smoke."

And in the case of sexual harassment rules, you are violating one person's right to get his/her rocks off and express his/her sexuality freely versus violating another person's right to work and socialize in a safe environment where one's body and dignity as a person are respected. Is that really such a dilemma?

The fact is, the only "rights" any person has are the ones granted by the society in which she or he lives. So, when the exercise of purported rights -- such as the "right to smoke" or "the right to get one's rocks off" -- come up against others' rights -- such as the "right to not have to breathe second hand smoke" or the "right to work in a place where one doesn't have to get groped by the boss every day to stay employed," then society is in a position to weigh, OK, who's being harmed more here? When one group is routinely harming others or restricting THEIR liberty, then I don't understand why people get huffy and declare it a pile of shite if society (through its "government") wants to step in and say, "You know, you're going to have to make some compromises here. You're causing physical harm to others." I think these (huffy) people are just having trouble adjusting to change, and their self interest is fogging their ability to see the issue clearly (or maybe it's all the smoke). Sure, my side of the argument is self interested, too, but which is the greater inconvenience or restriction of liberty: (1) I can't go at all to a concert where smoking is allowed unless I want to breathe shitty air all night and damage my eyes and greatly increase my chances of getting a nasty disease and bring a disgusting smell home with me and have it linger for days; versus (2) a smoker having to go outside for two minutes during intermission to feed their habit. Again, why is this such a dilemma?

As far as the free market goes, restaurant and bar receipts are up almost 9% in NYC since the ban there took effect, and there are 10,000 more jobs in that industry there since then, as well, and Boston has seen little or no change in the economic health of the industries affected by the ban put in place there. So, the doomsaying that always precedes such bans seems obviously misplaced. And apparently, it's not THAT much of an inconvenience for smokers or for the owners of bars and restaurants, etc. And it sure makes the other 75 to 80 percent of the US population that DOESN'T smoke happier (and healthier), not to have to put up with the smelly exercising of the "right to smoke" in public enclosed places that some people claim to deserve.

sinister steve said...

Audie,

It's hard for me to reply since you are comparing molesting someone sexually to second hand smoke. It's like comparing a fist fight to murder. No one is saying there is anything wrong with banning smoking at a concert or in a plane or a movie theater but smoking has gone hand and hand with drinking for a long time. Many people who don't smoke, smoke when they drink. If you don't like a bar that has too much smoke then vote with your dollar and dont go there. According to your stats a bar that has a self-imposed smoking ban should have no trouble being profitable. I guess my problem with the smoking ban is telling private business owners how to operate their business. People are allergic to shell fish and peanuts should those be banned too to avoid the risk of someone getting sick or dying?

Audie said...

"you are comparing molesting someone sexually to second hand smoke. It's like comparing a fist fight to murder."

I'm not sure I follow you. But on the face of it, it looks like you are helping me make my point, which is (using your allegory), if we agree that fist fights aren't OK, then why is it so hard to see that murder's not, either? I don't get it.

At one point, you say: "my problem with the smoking ban is telling private business owners how to operate their business."

But that blatantly contradicts what you say at another point: "No one is saying there is anything wrong with banning smoking at a concert or in a plane or a movie theater"

So, apparently, your sympathy for private business owners does not, for some unstated reason, extend to owners of concert venues, airlines, or owners of movie theaters (and who knows what else). Presumably, these exceptions have to do with fairness and the safety of those businesses' customers, which, again, is exactly my point.

The only differentiation (besides the unclear fisticuffs/murder contrast) between those whom you think deserve an exception and those whom you think don't, seems to have to do with something along the lines of "people have always smoked in bars." Well, once upon a time, people had "always smoked in airplanes and theaters and concert halls, too," but people (including yourself) eventually saw that that wasn't a good idea. So, obviously, that argument by itself should hold little weight (even for you).

And lastly, I haven't heard of any instances of innocent, allergy-prone people getting chewed-up shell fish or peanuts blown down their throats by people at a neighboring table; that's why, unlike smoking, it's not currently an issue.

Devastatin' Dave said...

Audie said: "The fact is, the only "rights" any person has are the ones granted by the society in which she or he lives."

I'm pretty sure we've had discussions on this in the past and we disagreed. I believe that man has certain rights by virtue of his existence. However, my laundry list of rights is not as extensive as some would think. Basically, I beleive man has rights to life, liberty and justly acquired property. Anything else is a corollary of those. "Society," as an entity, doesn't exist. It is an abstraction. Only individuals exist. I have the right to live by virtue of the fact that I own myself. The corollary of that is that I have the right to defend my life. So, when you say society grants rights; you are saying the you, Sinister, MM, Skeeter, et al, grant me the right to live. If someone can grant something, it implies that they can rescind it, also. If that is the case; then you, Sinister, MM, Skeeter, et al, can rescind my right to live. The slippriest slope if ever there was one. I'm basically living by the permission of others.

Rights, properly understood, do not confer obligations on others. For instance, I have the freedom of speech, but no one is obligated to give me a platform. I have the right to life, but no one is obligated to feed, clothe and house me. I have the right to justly acquired property, but no one is obligated to pay for it or maintain it.

With all that being said, I believe the owner should determine if smoking is allowed. No one is obligated to work for that owner or enter his establishment. Here's my problem with comparing 2nd hand smoke with sexual assault. Sexual assault, like murder and physical assult is always injurious to the person. However, 2nd hand smoke is not always injurious to a person. Irritating, yes; smelly, yes, but not necessarily injurious. I think it's gotten to the point where 2nd hand smoke is considered more dangerous than 1st hand smoke. Everyone carries viruses and germs that are potentially injurious to another, but, by the 2nd hand smoke logic, you must ban human interaction.

Sinister steve said...

If it comes down to having the government protect your health for you maybe we should ban alcohol from bars too. You know it is bad for you yet people go to bars and they drink. In fact I would be willing to say that more innocent people are killed by alcohol than are second hand smoke. Part of the entertainment at the bar is smoking. It is part of the deal. It is unique. In a plane you cannot walk outside and take the next plane to avoid smoke. If you wanted to ride in my car and I wanted to smoke you would have no say in the matter because that is my property just as it is the bars owners property to say whether or not people can smoke. Would you propose a law that prohibited car owners from smoking in their own car if they give rides to others? If I was to throw a party and invite people to come over can I smoke in my own home? Bar owners invite people to come to their place of business by the service they provide. There is no God given right to be able to go to a privately owned bar. With or without smoke.

Anonymous A-Hole said...

Let's not forget about the employees of such establishments, most of whom are not pleased (especially the non-smokers) with coming home smelling like Kurt Vonnegut's blazer.

And, while we're at it, let's take issue with forcing restaurant employees to wash their hands after wiping their ass. I mean, don't they have a right to keep fecal matter under their cuticles, while they make my sandwich, if they so desire? Who am I to say that they have to wash their hands?

My vote has always been this:

Smoke all you want, wherever you want. But as soon as your disgusting smoke drifts my way, enters my bodily orifices, begins stinking up my clothes, hair, and skin, then I reserve the right to come over and shove your cigarette right up your arse (I'll gladly wash my hands afterward).

In my mind, a smoker's "rights" end as soon as my right to breathe begins being compromised.

And that's what most smokers, casual or otherwise, fail to realize. In the gradual process of eroding their sense of smell and becoming wholly desensitized to just how awful the smell and taste (yes, I can actually taste it in the air when you smoke next to me (and I mean 'you' in a strictly generic sense))of cigarettes are (to many non-smokers), it's as if they suddenly feel entitled to tell non-smokers (the VAST majority of Americans) to go get fucked if they don't like it.

I always like to use this as an example:

Why is it that most smokers drive around smoking in their cars with their window(s)open? And why is it that, when done, an overwhelming number of them flick their cigarettes out that open window rather than using the ash tray? Simply, because it's fucking disgusting and even they know it.

But somehow, as soon as they leave their car, I'm supposed to forget how disgusting it is just because they're drunk/drinking?

I'm of the school that it's my rights (the non-smoker) that are being constricted when others smoke in my presence.

Sinister Steve said...

If you want employees who wash their hands and a smoke free environment go to Applebees.

I don't get it. If I don't like a place because it adversely affects my health I will not go there. It is as simple as that.

Also if there is such an overwhelming demand for smoke free bars why do we not see more of them? The general population may be non smokers but the bar population is full of smokers or those who do not care.

Audie said...

Welcome to the fray, DD.

You say, "Sexual assault, like murder and physical assult is always injurious to the person. However, 2nd hand smoke is not always injurious to a person."

What is inhaling tar, carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde, benzene, and nicotine in high concentrations if not injurious? Beneficial? No, and not even neutral. Tobacco smoke is a Class A carcinogen, more dangerous than asbestos exposure.

You also say: "Everyone carries viruses and germs that are potentially injurious to another, but, by the 2nd hand smoke logic, you must ban human interaction."

And in fact we do, in cases of highly contagious diseases, in which people with the disease are quarantined, for the sake of the safety of others.

People shouldn't be overly afraid of the "slippery slope," DD. Almost every situation falls somewhere along a continuum, and we needn't conclude that we haven't the ability to make distinctions at places along said continuum other than at the black-and-white extremes. For instance, we needn't shy away from making a distinction between someone infected with a rare and highly contagious and fatal disease on the one hand, and someone carrying around the usual run-of-the-mill germs that most of us have antibodies for.

Similarly, all that is being asked, by banning smoking in enclosed public places, is that these highly contagious people, spreading their carcinogenic germs, go breathe in a less confined space than where the other 80% of the population works, eats, drinks, travels, entertains, etc.

I feel no apologies for people so inconvenienced (heaven forbid they have to go out to the patio and get some fresh air in their blackened lungs!), or for highly contagious people who get quarantined (and I realize that you and I may disagree on both sets of circumstances).

The rights issue I'll save for later.

It's Friday night, after all.

Sinister Steve said...

I love too how we are talking about how to make a bar a healthier environment.

Audie said...

SS said: "If it comes down to having the government protect your health for you maybe we should ban alcohol from bars too. You know it is bad for you yet people go to bars and they drink."

The distinction is that no one (generally) is shoving drinks down the throats of people who are there to partake in the live music or the food or the pool playing or whatever, who do not want to drink.

SInister Steve said...

Innocent people are still harmed by those who drink. Assult, car accidents and domestic disputes. The harmed party doesnt have to drink a drop. I'd rather have smoke blown in my face than hit head on by a drunk driver. And yes I know drunk driving is illegal but lets just cut out the cause. No more alcohol in bars. Speaking of music isnt it possible that a live band in a confinded area could damage my hearing? I should not have to go to a bar and be exposed to loud music. Now we are down to no smokes, no loud music and no alcohol. Bam...................meet you at Starbucks

Audie said...

[Zip flop zip zip flop zip!!!!]

This is the sound of Sinister flailing about on the Slippery Slope.

Enjoy the ride, my friend!

(Traction's available if you want it.)

;-)

ludovic said...

just a view from below
devestating dave says that some rights are resultant of our existence independent of state or society you find ourselves existing...
He claims, for example, that he has the right to life and yet no one is obligated to feed, clothe and house him.
It seems to me from down here that this perceptions of his rights is entirely based within the (abstract) society he finds himself living in.
The society I live in down here in NZ does perceive my right to existence and are obligated feed, clothe and house me if I am unable to do these things myself.
So even the possibility of intrinsic rights is culture driven and culture specific.

Max said...

Max said, "our fundamental problem with the legislation is that we are adults and we can make our own decisions and the government has no right to tell us what to do, even if it is allegedly in our own best interests."

I think non-smoking bars are a great idea, but as SS said, "it should be left up to the free market."

DD spoke of a "slippery slope". Well, guess what, kids - when you let the government tell you what to do, when you let the government take away your freedoms, the government doesn't get when to stop. Also people become too used to being told what to do and forget that they are individuals and are supposed to be responsible and make decisions for themselves.

I live in Europe (as you know), every bar I go into is smoky. Sometimes I smoke, sometimes I don't. I would be happy to frequent non-smoking pubs and go outside if I wanted a cigarette. I would love to go home at night without my clothes and my hair smelling like an ashtray.

Like Skeeter's Barley's, many pubs in the Czech Republic are non-smoking at lunchtime (lunch being the main meal here). People go to those pubs and enjoy a pleasant clean-aired lunch even if they are smokers. It's a great thing, but it is the choice of the pub owners and managers; the government is not telling them what to do.

Smoke is bad, 2nd-hand smoke is bad. It's smelly and yucky, and can be very oppressive in large quantities in small spaces. We all know that, but my point was not about smoking or health, it was about liberty. I have always had a big problem with authority being imposed on me. You can even ask my mom.

Audie said...

"when you let the government tell you what to do, when you let the government take away your freedoms, the government doesn't get when to stop."

I sometimes wonder if we're living on the same planet. Are there no laws in Europe? I believe that there are. So, obviously, they "stop" at some point.

Are there NO laws that MM is in favor of? Because ANY law, every law, restricts ("takes away") someone's "freedoms." It is hyperbolic to take one step off the high point people put themselves on and declare that there is no stopping point other than the pit at the bottom. It's simply not true. "Slippery slope" is no defense, I'm telling you. It's like running out of things to say in an argument and shouting, "Well-- Well-- Well, fuck you!" It's akin to giving up. You have run out of good arguments if you are resorting to the slippery slope defense. It is one of the first logical fallacies one learns about in a freshman-level intro to logic and reasoning class (and SS's Starbucks argument is a textbook example). So, please, can we dispense with it here? It doesn't work. Allowing that it's OK to kill someone in self defense does not mean we can kill anyone any time we want to. Putting signal lights at a busy intersection does not mean that you are going to be told what hour of the day you can and can not drive your car. We as people living collectively can and do ALL THE TIME set restrictions on our behavior and it does NOT necessarily mean that our God-given (or wherever else DD and others get these things) "rights" are going to ALL be taken from us. On the contrary, we collectively hash it out, we draw and re-draw the line constantly. It's part of living together. We apparently disagree on who is being more adult -- those in favor of such agreements or those not.

Thankfully (IMO), the anti-smokers are gradually winning this particular little battle across the globe, but it is far from a unique battle, and everyone reading this finds themselves on either side of these line-drawing battles (sometimes for, sometimes against), depending on their own preferences and personal views about human behavior and personal liberty and the particular behavior in question. Anyone who claims to not be in favor of ANY governmental/societal/community-based restriction on behavior is being disingenuous. And, conversely, not everyone who occasionally speaks in favor of such restrictions are irresponsible non-individuals who can't make decisions for themselves. As a matter of fact, most if not all of these smoking bans began as citizen initiatives; they were not initiated by the (apparently evil) "government." They did not come about because the "government" cares about the health of smokers (it doesn't). They came about because "individuals" "decided" to take action against a threat.

And kudos to them, I say.

Audie said...

Since some people don't believe in governments or societies, I'll amend my wording above to say "Anyone who claims to not be in favor of ANY governmental/societal/community-based/interpersonal restriction on behavior is being disingenuous."

Devastatin' Dave said...

No slippery slope? Chew on this...First we have drunk driving laws, then we have states reducing the legal BAC so low as to be ridiculous, then you have DUI checkpoints, which are a violation of the 4th amendment, because there is no probable cause(regardless of what judges have said.) to stop and subject drivers to sobriety tests.

Now you have the state of Texas arresting people in bars for public intoxification as a means of reducing DUIs!!! Are you kidding me? Here are two links to the story, plus a link to Fred Reed's hilarious commentary on the whole thing.

http://planetmoron.typepad.com/planet_moron/2005/10/dui_drinking_wh.html

http://www.theagitator.com/archives/025677.php#025677

http://www.strike-the-root.com/52/reed/reed5.html

Welcome to the future! Here's the problem - we have been lead to believe that bars, restaurants, stores, etc. are public places and, thus, subject to a litany of restrictions. They are not! They are owned by somebody and happen to be open to the public. It's an abomination of the concept of private property to think otherwise.

Audie said...

I never said that reasonable people can't disagree on where those lines are drawn, but again, this doesn't prove that NO lines should be drawn, which is what is being implied, especially by you and MM (interestingly, the same people advocating nonparticipation in the process).

Unwelcome sexual molestation isn't tolerated in these pieces of "private property," and I remain unconvinced that there's enough of a difference between those rules and those banning smoke-belching.

Now that we're starting to all repeat ourselves, DD, why not post your "rights" bit above over on your blog, so we can go off on that tangent for a while.

And stop making me late for work.

Devastatin' Dave said...

Audie said: "Now that we're starting to all repeat ourselves, DD, why not post your "rights" bit above over on your blog, so we can go off on that tangent for a while."

So it be written, so it be done.