In an OpEd on page 17 of Thursday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch Jamie Allman, who is a radio talk show host, prattles on somewhat mindlessly about those of us who are “smoking ban addicts” and “fanatics.” In the comments following the on-line version he gets some support from the usual quarters, such as Bill Hannegan, but there was nothing new there. I posted the following critique of Allman’s lame OpEd in the early hours of Friday morning:
Jamie Allman’s piece is so biased and factually inaccurate it’s hard to believe he’s trying to be in the least bit objective. Those of us who support smoke-free air are not fanatics, as he claims, any more than if we were concerned about food safety, or clean drinking water, which are things we take for granted in society, but which was not always the case.
Here are the unfounded arguments he uses, some copied from the pro-smoking playbook:
1. “We are fanatics….” Because we want to be protected from harmful secondhand smoke, which is certainly no less of a public nuisance than public littering which is also not allowed, and by some measures, a much greater threat to public health and welfare.
2. “Fully law-abiding proprietors of restaurants and bars” are off-limits to such regulation. What a thoroughly confusing and absurd statement. If a law requires them to be smoke-free then they must abide by that regulation, just like any other law.
3. “People don’t have the right to eat or drink anywhere they want.” That would seem to support the purpose of laws to protect the public and private employees from secondhand smoke. But in the very next sentence, Allman writes:
4. “If you don’t like smoke don’t spend your money there.” The laissez faire approach of the Libertarian to hazards posed by secondhand smoke.
Extending this argument: If you don’t like to eat contaminated food don’t eat at restaurants serving contaminated food. And don’t work for a restaurant with unsafe working conditions. It’s not government’s job to fix these things!
Allman repeats this canard later when he writes that “if you don’t want to be exposed to secondhand smoke as an employee, then turn down the job.”
5. The 2006 Surgeon General’s report “suggests that even chronic exposure to secondhand smoke still only increases heart disease and cancer risks at most by 30 percent.” But according to the Forward from that report, of which Allman is so dismissive, that 30% increase “kills more than 3,000 adult nonsmokers from lung cancer, approximately 46,000 from coronary heart disease, and an estimated 430 newborns from sudden infant death syndrome.”
6. Allman asked “Do employees have the right to be free of workplace hazards? Yes. So why don’t smoking ban addicts push to make smoking an Occupational Safety and Health Administration violation.” Allman claims it’s because they “don’t have the evidence to make the case.”
The reality, as I know from direct knowledge of a senior scientist working on this issue at the time, is that some influential groups favoring the removal of secondhand smoke from private workplaces became convinced that OSHA’s final rule would be weaker than laws being enacted at the local level, yet would supersede them. Eventually, those groups agitated against the rule-making, which was quietly dropped after the Bush administration took office.
Martin Pion, President, Missouri GASP
Here’s the OpEd by Allman:
The next time I wander into a 7-Eleven in pursuit of my six-pack of Bud Light, I’m going to try not wearing any shoes. After all I don’t like to wear shoes, and I have the right to buy my beer anywhere I feel like it. No shoes, no shirt, no service? No way.
Welcome to the new world order in the eyes of smoking ban addicts.
St. Louis County already passed a smoking ban.
St. Charles County is about to put a ban on the November ballot.
And ban fanatics across the state are pushing for a statewide smoking ban.
In the world of smoking ban addicts, they have the right to adjust their world in any fashion they see fit to accommodate their whims. Choice? Good for them, not for others. I’m surprised they’re not walking into bars and turning down the volume on the jukebox. I’m surprised they’re not adding mustard to every hamburger they see served at the restaurant.
The fact is smoking bans have no business on the ballot in the first place. Neither politicians nor people have any business meddling in the affairs of fully law-abiding proprietors of restaurants and bars.
People don’t have the right to eat or drink anywhere they want.
If you don’t like smoke, don’t spend your money there.
I don’t take my family anywhere near establishments that allow smoking. But my involvement in the way a business operates stops there — at my wallet.
There’s an easy way to spot the disingenuousness of the smoking ban addicts.
Smoking ban cheerleaders argue that if we can stop restaurants from entertaining roaches and rats then we can stop people from smoking in restaurants too.
But roaches and rats are health code violations. If the smoking ban addicts are so confident about the dangers of smoke in a bar or restaurant, why don’t they push for it to be a health code violation?
Here’s why: despite the copious amounts of evidence that secondhand smoke can be a hazard, there’s not enough of it to actually take the honest approach to turn it into a health code violation.
All studies related to the dangers of secondhand smoke point to long-term and chronic exposure and don’t draw any conclusions of how much danger you are in while spending an hour eating your chicken wings.
Even the most prominent study on the effects of so called “environmental tobacco smoke,” as the 2006 Surgeon General’s report called it, suggests that even chronic exposure to secondhand smoke still only increases heart disease and cancer risks at most by 30 percent.
So instead of actually doing the dirty work of proving their case, the cowardly smoking ban addicts rely on emotion rather than true fact. And, more often than not, they win.
That’s because they know many citizens don’t care as much about liberty as much as they care about their own narrow self interests.
Your kid has asthma, so the freedom of a person who built his business using his entire life savings is of no concern.
You don’t like your new jeans to smell like smoke when you get home, so the interests of the couple who built their lives around running the corner bar and who are just getting by don’t matter.
The hard reality is it’s none of your business how a business chooses to operate as long as it’s abiding by civil rights and health laws. The hard reality is it’s not all about you.
When confronted with common sense, liberty and facts, smoking ban addicts usually will fall back on using restaurant and bar employees as their pawns. They claim that smoking is a hazard to the employees of restaurants and bars that allow smoking. But if you don’t want to be exposed to secondhand smoke as an employee, then turn down the job. Do employees have the right to be free from workplace hazards? Yes. So why don’t the smoking ban addicts push to make smoking an Occupational Safety and Health Administration violation? Again, it’s because they don’t have the evidence to make the case.
What’s next from the smoking suffragettes? A ban on fatty foods? A ban on high-cholesterol butter? I can see it now: Grandpa’s cholesterol levels are high so all restaurants must lower their cholesterol levels.
Restaurant and bar owners know more than anyone how to make a buck. Those who extinguish smoking on their own do so weighing its effect on profits. Those who allow smoking do the same kind of math.
More power to the restaurants who have decided on their own to ban smoking. Those are the restaurants where I’m taking the kids.
Shame on the lazy politicians playing Pontius Pilate with the livelihoods of hard-working business owners. They are the ones I will be rejecting come election time.
Jamie Allman is host of “Allman in the Morning” on KFTK-97.1 FM Talk radio.