Saturday, May 7, 2005

Austin smoking ban approved

I didn't vote in the local elections today, which kind of makes me feel like a jackass, but to be honest I wasn't up on the candidates and the issues and my vote would have been pretty random anyway.

It's worth noting that the voters approved a ban on smoking in bars and clubs. We already had a no smoking policy in restaurants. I'm actually very torn on the issue. I can honestly say that I don't know if I am in favor or against such smoking bans.

One the one hand, I think there is obviously a public health motivation behind the ban. When people drink in a bar, the alcohol doesn't go into other people's livers. You're not allowed to harm someone in a club by punching them in the face, so why should you be allowed to harm them by blowing carcinogens into their lungs? Smoking is not a constitutionally protected right, it can be legally be prohibited in some places, though it would clearly be wrong to ban it everywhere. But, to continue analogies, we don't allow public drunkenness because it could be dangerous, so it only makes sense to not allow smoking in enclosed areas because it could be dangerous, too. And smokers can always light up on balconies, patios, street corners, their homes, cars, and anywhere else that nonsmokers aren't exposed against their will.

But on the other hand, are nonsmokers really exposed against their will? You go to a bar or club with a reasonable expectation of certain things. If you don't want loud music, don't go to a bar. If you don't want sweaty, dancing bodies, don't go to a club. I think that it is perfectly logical to expect smoking at a bar or a club, and if a person doesn't want smoke around, they shouldn't go to such a place. That these establishments could voluntarily ban smoking and chose not to do so strongly suggests that smoking is an expected part of the experience.

So I really don't know. As a nonsmoker, it isn't going to really affect me at all. But it is a pretty significant issue. I am all for people being allowed to do with their own bodies what they see fit, but should people be allowed to do things which may affect others at any time? And we nonsmokers already had a perfectly valid way to avoid the risks by simply not patronizing those establishments, but that would require that the majority not have access to an entire class of activities for the free exercise of a minority's addiction.

It's hard.


  1. Think about all the employees of smoking establishments who have no choice but to work in the restaurant field. They are continuously exposed to the patron's smoke. They have no choice if they want to make a living. No one ever thinks about their servants health though...

  2. Think about all the employees of smoking establishments who have no choice but to work in the restaurant field.

    That's interesting, Jamie. I must have missed this because I was too busy listening to music, playing pool, or chatting with friends...but apparently bar and club employees are being HELD AGAINST THEIR WILL at their jobs and are ONLY ALLOWED to leave them if they work in the industry.

    What rubbish. Employees are (or ought to be) free to leave when they please and owners are (or were) free to send them off as they please.

    Ryan: I wrote extensively and heatedly regarding both the previous ban and this one, entirely opposed to them. I invite you to read what I wrote and consider things again.

    Primarily, and related to what I spat at Jamie above, a smoker in a club is not blowing smoke into the lungs of other patrons as if they were held down with their mouths open. Those patrons voluntarily entered the premises of a business that allows smoking onsite, and the existence of that smoke is instantly obvious to any patron with a functioning brain, as you wrote. Patrons choose to breathe the second hand smoke; if they thought the harm outweighed the benefit of being there, they'd leave. The fact that non-smokers (such as myself) remain inside is proof enough that we are there of our own will.

    I hope you understand the serious danger in assuming the whole body of our rights is encompassed within the Constitution or the laws government passes. A similar danger exists when you try to argue that because X is banned elsewhere, and Y has some similarities to X, there shouldn't be anything wrong with banning Y.

    I submit to you that the health Nazis won't stop with banning smoking in "public" places. They will probably target smoking anywhere around children and infants, especially in private homes and cars. It is logical progression from public property to commercial property to private property, as conceived by the smoking prohibitionists.