Monday, January 17, 2011

my public comments on Allegheny County's proposed smoking ban (Sept 6, 2006)

Current mood:awake

Allegheny County Council (Pittsburgh, PA) has proposed a ban on smoking in workplaces, and took testimony from any interested parties at a public hearing on Tuesday.

I was one of about three dozen people who registered to speak, and was placed #29 in the list. Despite being so far down, I ended up getting a couple of lines in the Post-Gazette's coverage (

Anyway, here is the text of my testimony, directed to members of Council.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I thank you for the opportunity to speak. [deleted ID-boilerplate text]

Let's get a couple of things straight here.

First: This isn't about smokers. It's about workers. Nobody should have to work in an unsafe environment, in this case one full of poisonous air. If, instead of smoking restrictions the plan was to reduce workplace exposure to radiation, or to industrial chemical pollution, there would be no opposition. Well, this is about reducing workplace exposure to chemical pollution. And while cigarettes themselves do not emit radiation, the cancer that comes from second-hand smoke is very real indeed.

Second: Smoking is optional. Breathing is not. Workers have to breathe. Customers do not have to smoke. In fact, most people do not smoke. And even if they do, they do not have to smoke there, in someone's workplace.

Third: OK, in fairness, let's talk about smokers' rights. There are three: Being first-class citizens, smokers have the right to speak out about their opinions, as well as vote and do everything else a citizen has the right to do. Smokers have the right to poison themselves. And smokers have the right to suffer the consequences of their own addiction. But this does not give smokers license to put other people in danger. Just to be clear, there is no such thing as a right to smoke, any more than there is a right to punch someone.

Fourth and lastly: There is no reason at all to fear economic harm from this legislation. There have been hundreds of studies published about law changes like this -- including and especially affecting taverns and casinos -- and virtually every one not published by tobacco interests has found negligible or positive financial impact. On the other hand, most studies published by or with support from tobacco interests found just the opposite.

But let's cut to the quick: It's simply the right thing to do to restrict smoking. Please pass this legislation, in as tough a form as possible, and as soon as possible.



Comment #1: PittsburghStorm (Male, age 28 [in 2011])

I diagree with your position. I feel that it is not government's responsiblity to govern businesses. If you or I decide to start up a restaurant or bar...WE are the wants providing the initial capital...WE are the ones taking the WE should have a say of our business. Not Uncle Sam.

Bus, if you start up a business and want to prohibit smoking...that's fine. And you should have that choice to. If any bar, restaurant, etc wants to have a smoking ban...that's their choice. And if the customer doesn't like it...they can easily go somewhere else.

But don't go around forcing other business owners what they can and can not do. Many taverns will lose business if people choose not to come. Why pay all that money to go to a bar if you can't smoke?

And, in regards to bars and restaurants, if their is such a demand for "smoke-free" enviroments, why aren't there more non-smoking restaurants.

In regards to work places, other than restaurants and bars, I don't know of any employers who allow their smoking employees to smoke on the job (other than MAYBE a construction company...if even that's skimpy). Again, other than bar employees and restaurant employees, I am not aware of any other issues.

I respect your rights not to smoke. I ask that all people please respect the rights of smokers.

Comment #2: Stuart Strickland

Documentation on my fourth/last point can be found here:
Note: This is a 140-page PDF file, about a 45-minute download on a 56K dialup line.

Briefly, it's a review of about 500 studies -- a study comparing and summarizing studies -- and while there are a couple of them that found a negative financial impact, NONE of those passed scientific scrutiny. Meanwhile, ALL of those which passed scientific scrutiny found a negligible or positive impact.

So it comes down to three things:
a) The Surgeon General has concluded that the case is closed on the scientific side of things; i.e., there is absolutely no question that second-hand smoke causes harm.
b) The International Review study explodes any myths about financial harm.
c) This is about protecting paid employees from harm on the job.

This applies to anyone who holds any sort of legitimate employment, whatever they do, and wherever that is, including private clubs, and taverns, and casinos. It's not government intrusion, it's government making sure people are safe on the job, and it's government making sure that customers are not harmed by other customers. Both are within the legitimate jurisdiction of government, and both are legitimate concerns. I do not see how either of those points is arguable to the point of exclusion.

Regardless of how smokers feel about it, they have to first set aside their habit before discussing the topic, because as I said in my first point, it isn't about them, it's about workers.

1 comment:

bus15237 said...

The link to the U.K. study is now broken. I will see if I can find its current location, and correct the link.