Smoking Bans Start Arguments
Whether you puff on them, hate them – love them or berate them – cigarettes are being banned from more and more bars, restaurants and cafes across the country. Smoking bans seems to hit on a nerve for everyone. The news is either heard with extreme joy or extreme irritation – all depending on whether you smoke, don’t smoke, own a bar, feel a ban infringes on your rights or wish the government instituted the ban years ago.
There are many controversies surrounding smoking or smoking bans – and everyone seems to have their own opinion on whether the move towards no smoking was right or wrong:
- Non-smokers: most non-smokers are happy for the ban, and insist that the government apply it to more places, including cars and homes – so that the children of smokers will not have to suffer in a smoky environment.
- Smokers: most smokers sense that the public is prejudiced against them. There are even a few who argue that the negative side-effects of smoking are not solidly proven by those carrying out the studies. There are less and less people to support this belief as more and more research is published about the risks of smoking.
- Business Owners: then there are the business owners who had to suddenly enforce the ban in their businesses, restaurants, clubs and bars. There are some businesses that still draw the same number of customers – but then there are others who have seen their businesses go belly up.
- Politically Minded: there is also a lot of smokers and non-smokers who oppose the ban simply because they think it is an infringement on their rights. They argue that once the door is open to government regulating the behaviors of the public, who knows what other rights will be taken away.
In my opinion, there are legitimate concerns on all sides of the argument. Undoubtedly there are benefits to the smoking ban – the most obvious being the safeguarding of public health. On the other hand, there are drawbacks to the ban – for instance the number of business owners who can no longer pay their bills because they lost their patrons to the few local clubs that are exempt from the smoking ban.
There are also the completely unforeseen, border-line outrageous side-effects of the ban. For example, how the ban has impacted drunk driving fatalities, spawned a generation of “healthy” cigarettes and linked barbeques to some of the same chemicals as smoke.
This article will give you a breakdown of my take on smoking bans including “the good, the bad and the ugly”.
Here are some good things that have been put into motion by the smoking bans:
1. Drop in Heart Attack Occurrence. This is an absolutely astounding fact! Heart attacks have long been associated with smoke, since the chemicals in smoke cause narrowing of the veins and arteries in the body, putting strain on the heart. Blood clotting is also a cause of heart attack that is often directly related to smoking.
2. Research done at the University of California found that after only 1 year of having the smoking ban in effect, heart attack rates were 17% lower than usual! Some of the individual towns studied by the University of California had more dramatic results – Helena, Montana had its heart attack rates cut in half only after 6 months of the smoking ban!
3. Healthier Work Place. Some estimate that working in a smoky environment for a long period of time can cut your life expectancy by 10 years! This is because the same diseases that come with smoking comes with inhaling second hand smoke. A smoke-filled workplace can be a non-stop source of secondhand smoke – working an 8 hour shift in a smoking environment is similar to chain smoking for all of those hours.
So now your favorite bartender or waiter can look forward to living a longer life with a decreased risk of developing cancer, COPD, stroke or heart attacks.
(But then again, if they choose to work in a smoky environment in the first place then avoiding smoke may not be at the top of their list. You would have to agree that no one made them work there – there are many other smoke-free callings and careers out there!)
4. Healthier Restaurants and Bars. No more smoky smelling clothing! Now your favorite clubs and nightspots are a healthy place to spend a few hours. A lot of businesses claim that the number of patrons has increased with the smoking ban in place – this probably means that all of the non-smokers who used to stay at home to avoid the smoke are getting out and having fun at their local tavern. Restaurants that are smoke-free and much better for their youngest customers – since children are at more risk from cigarette smoke because of their small, developing lungs.
5. VFW and Elks Clubs Boost in Members. Private clubs that do allow smoking are now in high demand. Some organizations like VFW posts and Elk clubs that used to have sparse numbers now are booming with new members (as long as they are exempt from the ban – many clubs that have banned smoking have given up their charitable donations or have closed completely because of it).
6. More “Quitters”. In some areas, the ban has inspired renewed efforts to quit smoking. New York City reports that adult smoking is down 19% – which translates into 240,000 less smokers in NYC’s population. Banning smoking from public places like bars should lend a hand to those trying to quit. However, other areas have actually reported an increase in smoking among working class men since the ban.
This is partially because of the way that nicotine affects your brain. The more nicotine that enters your body, the more nicotine receptors are developed in your brain to absorb the chemicals. A smokers brain would have billions more of the receptors than a non-smoker. Being in a place where you can smell smoke, or see someone else smoking in enough to switch on the receptors that cause your nicotine cravings. The smoking ban cuts the number of times a “quitter” will be irritated by the nicotine receptors during a night out, making it easier to quit.
Here are some negative effects of the smoking ban:
1. Bars and Restaurants Driven Out of Business. For some areas, the smoking ban has taken such a toll on their businesses that owners are closing their doors for good. Certain states, like Delaware (40% decrease in profits) have had a substantial loss in profits since the smoking ban took effect.
2. For business owners, this is a nightmare scenario – and for employees it means that their jobs hang in the balance. Clubs like VFW Posts and Elk Clubs that were listed in the “Good” category above can just as easily fall into the “Bad” category all depending on whether they were excluded from the smoking ban or not. These organizations were once known for their charitable gifts to the community – but now their money making events like Bingo no longer attract a crowd. Now they struggle to keep their doors open.
3. Job Loss: It goes without saying that businesses that have been hit hard by the smoking ban will be forced to lay off employees. Previously flourishing small bars and nightclubs have had to tighten their belts now that they have to ban smoke. For many owners, their business was their livelihood – and losing their business spells financial ruin for them.
Employees have reason to worry as well. In general, bartenders, waiters and waitresses make very little money per hour, because the greater part of their income comes from tips. The loss of smoking patrons means that they get fewer tips, and as a result, their bills become harder and harder to pay.
4. Erosion of Personal / Property Rights. For many smokers and non-smokers, the government imposed bans on smoking in public places represents a dangerous stance. Is it right for the government to ban the use of a completely legal product on private property? (i.e. any property that is owned by a private citizen. Private Citizens are the rest of us who aren’t holding a public office . . . so that means most of us).
They see this as infringing on the rights of the public – and that the future may bring more of these controlling mandates on personal or public matters. Perhaps a ban on greasy, fast food meals will be next – or maybe a nationwide ice cream ban? Obesity is the fastest growing cause of avoidable diseases and deaths in the U.S., so this would only be the next logical step towards better public health. How would you feel if the government began regulating what meals a restaurant was allowed to serve you – or what food you were allowed to eat in your own home?
5. “The Quitters”. Yes, I know – the Smoking Ban Smoking “Quitters” was listed as a “Good” outcome of the smoking ban, but it can just as easily be categorized as “Bad”. This is because the average smoker burns up to 200 calories more per day because of their habit. Also, since nicotine is an appetite suppressant, they are less hungry throughout the day. When someone quits smoking, the most common means of coping with the withdrawal is eating.Once taste buds get back their ability to taste after smoking is stopped, food will taste better and be almost irresistible.
Though the average quitter gains 10-20 pounds, roughly 10% of all quitters will experience 30 pounds or more in weight gain. This means that out of those 240,000 people who quit smoking in NYC, 24,000 of them are joining the ranks of people who are in danger of becoming morbidly obese. Ironically, many of the same diseases linked to smoking are linked to obesity (heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, cancers, asthma, depression, etc).
Here are some very strange facts about the smoking ban:
1. More Drunk Driving Deaths. No one wants to die in a hospital bed as a result of breathing second hand smoke. How about being run down on the road by an inebriated smoker? Strangely enough, the smoking ban actually increases your chances of dying in a car accident.
A study done at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee compared the number of drunk driving fatalities in areas where smoking was banned versus areas where smoking was still allowed. The results were surprising and suggest that smokers are willing to drive longer distances just to find a bar where they can light up and enjoy a couple of drinks.Before the bans took effect, a smoker could walk to the local tavern. Now, he must take to the road and drive to a neighboring county or state that allows him to smoke in public. Getting behind the wheel in the first place, plus the added travel time means that there are more drunk drivers swerving down the road in smoking ban territory than in smoke-friendly areas. It just seems like if the smoke doesn’t kill you one way, it will kill you another way.
2. Cigarette Companies Developing “Healthy” Cigarettes. Huh? Healthy Cigarettes?
British American Tobacco is hard at work developing a new, less toxic cigarette. It sounds crazy, but the truth is that they have been able to reduce the toxins in their new cigarettes by up to 90% compared to conventional cigarettes. To test their new product, they recruited a room full of smokers to puff on the cigarettes and then tested biomarkers in their saliva and urine and compared those levels to regular cigarettes smokers and non-smokers.
So, will cigarettes get a healthy, new, image makeover in the future? British American Tobacco would like to think so.
3. Every-Day Sources of the Same Toxins. If you escape the cigarette smoke, then what about the frying pan full of bacon – or the barbequed shrimp – or the gas station? These are just a few sources of pollutants that are the same as those found in cigarettes. Cooking bacon fills the house with volatile nitrosamines that are the same as those found in cigarette smoke.
Eating barbequed food exposes you to polyaromatic hydrocarbons that are also found in smoke. Standing at the gas station to fill up your car – or filling up the lawn mower with gasoline – can easily fill your lungs with a heavy dose of benzene that is present in both gasoline fumes and cigarette smoke. These are just a few examples of other toxic situations that you encounter everyday. Has the smoking ban really made life safer? I guess so – as long as you don’t drive a car or other gas-powered vehicle to your favorite bacon and barbeque-free night spot.
Was placing a Government Ban on Smoking the Only Way?
Whether you are a smoker or not, it sure seems like there were other options to explore before an all out ban was called into effect.
If the government wants a nation of non-smokers, maybe the solution would be taxing cigarettes even more heavily – or making them illegal altogether. No, they can’t do that because big tobacco pours way too much money into political contributions and has a VERY powerful lobby. Plus, the loss of tax income to the government would be staggering.
Maybe the solution is segregating smokers and non-smoker by creating pro-smoke and anti-smoking bars? It sounds extreme, but it would certainly give customers and employees more options. We don’t need laws for this option – just progressive thinking bar owners.
Another plausible solution would be having smoking hours after the dinner rush – when most people stop at the bar for a drink and a smoke. Pros – prevent children from the heaviest of smoke levels. Cons – unless the business does something to clean the air between the night time smoking hours and the daytime crowds – one could argue that a lot of the smoke is still in the air.
What about improving the air inside the bars? This seems like the easiest solution.The challenge is that the most prominent technology in the smoke removal industry were electrostatic smoke eaters. See, companies that made these machines played on the bar and business owners wishes of not wanting to spend money on filters. So, they created electronic smoke eaters that didn’t require filters. Problem solved, right?
See, the electronic smoke eaters required time consuming, messy cleanups. If you don’t maintain them properly – the effectiveness drops off considerably. (meaning, they stop working) So, based on the poor maintenance and even worse performance – the bar and restaurant industry got the incorrect impression that smoke eaters don’t work. So, they stopped trying to solve the problem altogether.
Had more businesses tried filter based smoke eaters, they would have had a workable solution. Perhaps if this were the case – bar owners would have solved their own problems and the government could have stayed out of it altogether.
While no smoke removal system is perfect, a HEPA filter based smoke eater that also has a carbon filter for gases, fumes and odors and a pre-filter for the heavy particulate can do a great job. And when you get enough power to filter the air 10-12 times an hour – you can really make a dramatic difference in the air quality.
So what do YOU think about the smoking bans?
Are you a smoker?
Are you a non-smoker?
Are you a business owner?
How have these smoking bans affected you – positively or negatively?
Please leave a comment below.