Musings of a Dinosaur

A Family Doctor in solo private practice; I may be going the way of the dinosaur, but I'm not dead yet.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Joining the Discussion: Public Smoking Ban

Finally, I have a little extra time on my hands. So what's the first thing I do? Wade into the dangerous territory where the Happy Hospitalist and the Cranky Professor are at each other's throats over the topic of a federal smoking ban in public places. Strange idea of fun, I know.

Much as I hate to admit it (and I can only hope the general public recognizes as well as I'm sure Cranky does just how much I hate it) HH is correct in this particular case. Cranky is (I assume unintentionally) misreading HH's point to generate invective against the nanny state. I actually agree with Cranky and others who bemoan the nanny state, but the problem here is that it is not the issue being argued.

I believe the premise involves a Federal smoking ban IN PUBLIC PLACES. This is not the same as criminalizing all tobacco use, thus the anaology to Prohibition simply does not apply. The issue is that of second-hand smoke; my right (and Cranky's; and her kids') to fresh air unsullied by the carcinogens emitted from tobacco products smoked by others. Frankly, I don't give a rodent's patootie about the health of public smokers (when they aren't my patients, and even when they are my patients, when they're not in my office they're out of my jurisdiction.) Thus, all the ranting about the futility of legislating healthful behavior, while correct, is irrelevant to this specific discussion.

Cranky: say you were out somewhere with your kids swimming in a lovely, clean pond and saw someone on the shore relieving themselves into the water. I'm pretty sure you'd have the same, visceral "ewww" that I would (though I know your invective would be orders of magnitude more colorful than any I could ever dream of crafting.) Would you be so quick to condemn the powers-that-be for putting up a sign saying "SHITTING IN THE POND IS PROHIBITED" for trampling on the rights of the poor, benighted shitters who choose to continue their unhealthful ways despite massive public campaigns about the dangers of disease contracted from shit-filled water?

Laws against dumping toxic waste have nothing to do with the dumpers, and everything to do with the general public. The idea of a smoking ban is more analogous to laws against pollution than to seatbelt or helmet laws. A proposed federal PUBLIC smoking ban has nothing to do with the smokers and everything to do with me and you (and asthmatics) and the air we breathe. Nothing about such a ban would prevent people from filling their homes and cars with all the toxic fumes they want. Of course, this begs the issue of their children. Adults may have the right to poison their own lungs, but the nanny state could easily make the case that children need to be protected and thus remove kids from the homes of smokers. This is the real slant of that slippery slope you deplore.

You're trying to run a thoroughbred at a NASCAR event. Come on back over to the right racetrack and I'll buy you a beer.


At Tue Jan 06, 03:07:00 AM, Blogger GeorgeH said...

A very cute argument after having most of the private places in this country declared public during the '60s.

If you want to ban smoking in public places, fine, but first change the laws back so that restaurants, bars and hotels are private places, under control of their original owners.

I haven't smoked in a dozen years, but I still boycott non smoking places where the choice was made by the owners, not the government.
If you don't like smoke in a private place, don't go there, then there will be a basis for discussing what happens in public.

At Tue Jan 06, 09:18:00 AM, Blogger Sevesteen said...

I am an ex-smoker and semi-libertarian. I would agree that nobody should be required to work in a smoke-filled environment. I would agree that non-smokers shouldn't pay for smoker-self-induced illness.

Cigarette smoke should be treated like any other workplace hazard, with realistic limits set on involuntary exposure. If an employer can use technical means to keep exposure to an insignificant level and can prove it, smoking should be allowed. I do not believe that there is significant risks to the majority of outdoor second hand smoke, and indoor second hand smoke can be managed.

I also believe it is too easy for children and teens to get cigarettes--They should be at least as difficult to get as liquor. If you can keep people from getting hooked young, you will have far less smoking in a generation.

At Tue Jan 06, 09:30:00 AM, Blogger The Happy Hospitalist said...

Dino. I knew you would see the wisdom of my ways

Did you remove your self imposed ban on linking to my website? :)

At Tue Jan 06, 03:13:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As GeorgeH said, Define public properly, and I'll consider supporting it.

The other problem is FEDERAL. There is nothing in the Constitution about regulating smoking. There is a thing called the 10th Amendment, that says these powers are reserved for the states. So, what PA (or OH, or whatever) does is both hunky-and-dory.

At Tue Jan 06, 03:19:00 PM, Blogger The Happy Hospitalist said...

william. Perhaps we should also get rid of medicare, Social security, Federal highway funds. The CDC, NIH, HHS,

Now. If only the rest of the spend happy public would go along with the constitution.

At Wed Jan 07, 12:26:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A little extra time, huh?

Does this mean you Finished The Book?

Inquiring minds want to know!

At Wed Jan 07, 04:06:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

HH--I agree. Those Ponzi schemes, particularly SS and Medicaid are unconstiutional and unsustainable.

Highways, that IS interstate commerce, as are railroads and airlines.

Frankly, there should be no national endowment for the arts, either.

At Thu Jan 08, 04:04:00 PM, Blogger doc said...

If second hand smoke is bad, can the government do something about my neighbors who heat their homes with wood stoves, and all winter I suck in the smell and nasties of the wood smoke? Shall we next ban all burning that might impinge on another?

At Fri Jan 09, 10:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm. No need to "shit in the pond" as you have put it. Bathrooms are provided at public swimmin' hole; therefore, negating the need or reason to shit in the public swimmin' hole. However, if I cannot smoke outside in public, 25 feet away from a door or whatever the distance is---Are you forcing me by law to break the law to smoke and thus shit in our swimmin' hole?

Am curious, since most of drive and cars are shitting pollution into the air or our collective swimmin' hole, and on especially bad smog days this triggers my friend's asthma, could we also ban driving in PUBLIC on those bad air days as not to inadvertently exacerbate her asthma?



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