Thursday, August 14, 2008

Council smoking farce: I'm taking it personally, too.

You may agree or disagree with what I write, but you can’t say I didn’t warn you when it comes to the misbegotten direction of New Albany’s Greatly Unnecessary Smoking Debate of ’08.

As reported in yesterday’s Tribune, on Tuesday evening three of the four council persons voting against President Jeff Gahan’s cynically calculated smoking ordinance met with opponents of the ban, and public discussion began in earnest as to a politically expedient softening of the ordinance’s reach.

In blunt terms, this means that the council Nay-Bloc’s appearance, while well intentioned, duly initiates the process of harried last-minute horse trading for exemptions and exceptions to the ordinance’s scope. Once in progress, this bargaining will have the effect of dividing the opposition against itself – surely playing to the ultimate goal of the council’s Pro-Bloc – while placing the council itself in exactly the position I predicted it would be.

The council will be playing God, which of course fits snugly within the confines of Dan Coffey’s Bazooka Joe divinity school diploma, but should frighten the living daylights out of the rest of the city of New Albany and anyone else as close as Pyongyang and Zimbabwe.

Here’s how.

When the topic of exceptions and exemptions comes up, one must remember that the conceptual basis of the argument against indoor smoking is secondhand smoke, and its health effects on humans. The smoking ban lobby's case hinges on secondhand smoke in workplaces only, and not on individual freedoms and consumer choice, considerations that have been proven to be capable of bypassing when there is an overarching concern for workplace safety.

(As an aside, I've always found it odd that if this is indeed the case, OSHA as yet does not purport to regulate workplace smoking. But I digress.)

As temperatures rise, and with the jockeying for placatory exemptions and exceptions soon to resemble an outdoor volleyball match between drunken sand crabs, the council will be asked to decide which employee better deserves protection in the workplace -- the waiter in the smoke-free restaurant dining room, or the bartender barely visible behind nicotine clouds? Naturally, there is a hazmat electoral corollary. Which of the two is likely to cast a ballot … and in which direction?

Of course, this Solomon-like distinction (health, not votes) is an impossible one for any mortal to make, and far more so for a council congenitally challenged by the fundamental precepts of scientific evidence and logical consistency – dare I say, by the very precepts of higher education itself.

At the same time, there is an eerie scent of political co-dependence in the air. It is an open secret that Mayor Doug England is considering a veto of the council’s smoking ordinance, but the mayor is a politician, too, and until the lung damage credits are blithely swapped around in the council chamber, he’ll be unable to gauge the political efficacy of a veto. The vote last week was 5-4 on a first reading, meaning that if the totals hold through second and third tallies, at least one council person saying “nay” would have to flip over to the “aye” side for 6-3 veto kill.

Will he veto, or won’t he? Only the Shadow knows (and I don’t mean Carl Malysz, campers).

Pondering these many sub-topics, the question to me remains one of sensible proportion in the context of smoking as one of many potential problems faced by the city during tough economic times.

By most accounts, the council’s August 4 work session on the general topic of code enforcement, substandard housing and rental property regulation – essentials for any public official claiming (sans hypocrisy) to be concerned about public health – went swimmingly.

At the same time, the intellectual vacancy of Dan “Wizard of Westside” Coffey’s ability to now be for public health (workplace smoking) and against it (rigorous code enforcement) simultaneously is far more indicative of the council’s previous habits of non-thought than could possibly be rectified by one election cycle and the overdue departure of professional wannabeen “policrites” like Larry Kochert.

The Floyd County Department of Health stands similarly exposed, at least in my mind. As reader Ecology Warrior recently pointed out, local health officials find it somehow far easier to stridently support the smoking ban than to take responsibility for helpfulness on mosquito (West Nile, anyone?) eradication.

I may be mistaken, but I can’t recall the department taking a coherent position on the myriad public health issues engendered by uncontrolled slumlords and substandard housing in the traditional absence of code enforcement. The same can be said for the various “drug” eradication bureaus and free-lance health crusaders.

Will they be there to lend their concerned voices to the imperatives of public health and safety when the topic turns away from bars and restaurants, which after all are indicative of voluntary discretionary spending on the part of the citizenry, and toward prying long overdue rental property reforms from the cold, dead hands of the likes of Pat Harrison, owner of as many rental units as George W. Bush has malapropisms?

I’ll not be holding my breath on that one. Surprisingly enough, the reason for my skepticism was best stated by a pseudonymous commenter at Mrs. Baird’s blog:

Most of the people that vote these bans into law simply see this as a chance to "stick it" to smokers, whom they view as second class citizens, and it's personal.

Yep, and the key word here is personal.

Once introduced in ordinance form, the anti-smoking argument on behalf of objective science always mutates into one of personal preferences -- of what I like versus what you like.

Wouldn’t it be wondrous to see, for once, the righteous indignation of nanny health fascism focused against the slumlord class’s perpetual enrichment from substandard housing, and the same city council's long-held refusal to address it?

Hey, Dan Coffey: Is the health of a low-income busboy who can choose to work at any number of establishments more important than that of a low-income family, wedged into a vermin-ridden hole for too damned much money each month, but lacking reasonable options?

If you answer “no”, then I trust we’ll be seeing you at the forefront of the rental property regulation campaign, right?

Right.

In the end, I admit to being too sensitive to the historical precedents of the prohibitionist instinct in America. After all, my career in beer, along with my natural barroom habitat and chosen workplace, was once declared illegal, overnight, by virtue of legislation stemming from mostly well-meaning people fatally infected by the contagion of over-zealous virtue.

And, I’ll admit to having become, at long last, genuinely angry about the brazen and persistent hypocrisy of elected officials who’ll merrily sweep other public health concerns under a rug, sneer openly at the Constitutional principle of fair representation, and ignore literally dozens of pressing civic needs to embark upon a purposeless Jihad that will doubtless inflict economic hardship on my own business and my brethren in it.

The impact may indeed be short-term for my own business, but in an uncertain economy, and with consumers beset by rising prices, who among us should be forced by legislative fiat to make such a short-term sacrifice?

Until the council’s concern for public health is uniform and distributed across the city’s shoddily regulated expanse, this amazingly urgent smoking ban impetus should be viewed for what it is, and that’s diversionary, hypocritical, elitist bunk.

Indeed … the silence from the council's Pro-Bloc is fairly deafening. Can any of you step forward to differ with me?

47 comments:

Christopher D said...

In what will be indeed the shortest response from me regarding smoking bans:

Well said Roger.

Randy Smith said...

Welcome back.

Recent developments will be part of the discussion on tonight's New Albany Now

John Gonder said...

Roger:

I won't attempt to counter your pro-tobacco argument. I won't ask your indulgence to wait for the results of the committee on rental registration and code enforcement to actually meet before pronouncing it ineffectual. But I will point out that for you to decry the Council for "elitist bunk" is about as convincing as John McCain trying to hang the "elitist" tag on Barack Obama.

Kurt said...

In the interest of consistency and from a normative standpoint I agree that all major health concerns should be addressed by the council. However, it is a straw-man approach to focus on the councils failures in other areas in an attempt to disparage this one. One could simply retort that you have confused two separate issues, the importance of consistency with the dangers of second-hand smoke. On the other hand, maybe the thrust of your position is that second-hand smoke is not really as serious of a danger as poor public housing conditions? If this is your position, then I agree. But you must realize that this argument takes nothing away from the pro-smoking ban position, it merely underscores the importance to get to it in the correct order, i.e. after public housing has been dealt with.

The science (peer-reviewed mainstream science)as I understand it is very clear on this issue, second-hand smoke increases the risk of acquiring lung cancer as well as a number of other health issues. There really is no debate in this area.

This issue thus concerns, not just your and other bar owner's employees, but patrons as well. The most common response to the smoking ban argument is that workers can choose to work elsewhere and patrons can choose to go elsewhere. After all, there is a constitutional right for you to run your business as you see fit. But consider the following, when your patrons drink beer and behave well, there is obviously no problem. But what do you do in your establishment when a patron gets drunk and violent, lets say he/she begins to splash his/her beer on other patrons, even attempts to force them to partake of that beverage? I would guess that you would throw him/her out. Moreover, the law would not allow you to run a business that allowed patrons to beat each other up; the argument that if customers don't like it they can go somewhere else would cease to apply.
Second-hand smoke does force all others in the bar to partake of something that causes physical harm. Thus we have a constitutional right of the worker and patron at issue when someone smokes around them in a public place. That last part is important, your establishment is a 'public place', what you do in your home is a different story.

Thus there are two serious rights at issue here. In my opinion the arguments on each side have a lot of merit. When balancing the two against each other what is just? But the question arises, should the law err on the side of caution by removing your right to allow smoking in the interest of protecting public health? While this is a serious affront to your constitutional rights, shouldn't the constitutional rights of your workers and patrons at least in so far as the public health is involved come logically prior?

Ruthanne said...

Well said, Kurt. Addressing indoor smoking and rental prperty is not an either/or proposition. Flash! Contrary to (un)popular belief, the Council members are quite capable of holding more than one thought in their heads at a time.
As for the smoking ban, let's not forget the financial burden on taxpayers for smokers (and people affected by second-hand smoke) receiving Medicare, Medicaid, and those in the VA system. Smoking is a dying habit (literally). The jury is in - no matter what junk science the "Rush Limbaugh We Got Rights Institute" peddles. My friends who own Cafe Lou Lou (now 2 locations) in Louisville attest to the fact that their business has actually increased since the comprehensive smoking ban, as most people are non-smokers and prefer to enjoy their drinks and food in clean air. Employee absenteism has been reduced since they have fewer problems with bronchitis and asthma. You may have seen the recent report from Lexington citing ER visits related to asthma have decreased since their smoking ban took effect.
Finally, smoke-filled bars, bingo halls and bowling alleys are not exactly enticements for businesses with good jobs to locate in New Albany. In fact, the opposite is true. And the reports of businesses closing because of smoking bans are grossly exaggerated. (As an example, see the CDC report on El Paso, Texas.) Many business close because they were already struggling and/or the owners were ready to retire or move on.
With Scribner Place opening soon, there will be more people downtown pursuing healthful activities. We see the Farmers' Markets teeming with customers wanting fresh, healthy foods. New Albany is moving toward a cleaner, healthier community. We need to promote that positive trend.

Meatbe said...

For the record, I agree with John, Kurt and Ruthanne. In my view, there is nothing elitist about supporting the smoking ban. Those who support the ban do so primarily because they are deeply concerned about public health, and not because they look down upon those who choose to smoke.

bluegill said...

You all can argue as much as you want but, as long as the ordinance contains the type of exceptions and exemptions that John has already voted for once, the ban isn't about public health. It's about personal preferences.

If it's about public health, then all workers must be protected and not just some, unless John and others would like to explain why some lives are worth more than others. That's what the proposed ordinance says, and that's elitist.

Healthblogger said...

Since this certainly is a health related issue, I'll give my 2 cents.

As the current Chief of Staff of Floyd Memorial Hospital and Health Services, I did send a letter on behalf of the Medical Staff to the council supporting the ban.

The data is very clear on the risks of smoking and second hand smoke and there is convincing data that contradicts the harm to businesses.

All of that said; if I were a councilman voting for this ban as it stands, I would vote against it.

One of the few true roles that Government has is to protect its citizens. But it does not have the authority to take away individual deicisions. It can legislate what happens if decisions are made, but it cannot prevent someone from making the decision.

Certainly a ban of smoking in all facilities that people have to visit is legitimate, but I do not believe government has the authority to legislate non smoking in private businesses that people can choose or not choose to visit.

Governmant buildings, grocery stores, airports, hospitals, schools, etc should have bans, but bars and restaraunts should be allowed to smoke and let the financial implications or their personal moral choice guide their decisions.

The governement cannot legislate against stupidity. We cannot protect people from themselves, they are typically their own worst enemy.

Larry M. Summers said...

Healthblogger, I concur but this issue is difficult for me.

Christopher D said...

it is the maater in which this ordinance is being fast tracked, and undoubtedly will be passed that is both insulting and shocking.
Families having been fighting for at least a decade for this city to take action against the dangers and health hazards associated with the deplorable shape of the housing infrastructure.
As soon as the Abersold/Hannah factions come forth, this ordinance is fast tracked. It is a slap in the face to eceryone who has been told "we are doing everything we can do to correct this". Its obvious the majority of the council values the propaganda of the anti-tobacco coalitions over that of the true issues facing this city.

The New Albanian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The New Albanian said...

John

It isn't a pro-tobacco argument. It is an expression of primal frustration.

R

Brandon W. Smith said...

Although I appreciate Bluegill's point about exceptions, I think John Gonder voted correctly from a public health perspective. To vote no would have been letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Christopher D said...

Brandon,
Remember this is not about "public health", this is about workplace safety.

bluegill said...

What a lot of this boils down to is the ability to pass ordinances at little to no financial cost.

Like many other ordinances on New Albany's books, the smoking ban (no matter how it's written) is destined to fail in implementation because there's no one to enforce it.

Hell, ban walking and we can all wave to each other as we pass on the sidewalk, just like we've always done.

We'll know the majority of the council is sincere about anything having to do with public health when they agree to pay for enforcement.

We'll know they're sincere about the law at all when they agree to legally and equitably redistrict and at least act like the foundation of democracy means anything to them.

Until then, ANY law they pass will be a matter of saying that everyone should be required to follow the rules except them.

If that's not hypocritical and elitist, what is?

The New Albanian said...

Appreciate that, pardner. I'm considering holding my breath until someone addreses this point. Nah, maybe not. Suffocation isn't fun.

Ruthanne said...

I don't understand Healthblogger's rationale. Restaurants allow minors. Children have neither decision-making authority nor mature reasoning skills to make this kind of a "choice". Unless restaurants install completely separate ventilation systems for smoking areas, they would have to prohibit minors in their establishments. I have been in restaurants where babies in high chairs are surrounded by smoking "adults". Nobody believes the babies are there by choice. Seat belts are required in personal vehicles, along with safety seats for infants and children. It's a public safety issue. Same with indoor smoking. I see no credible case for exempting restaurants from the smoking ban.

Bluegill wants no exemptions. The only one I'm aware of is tobacco stores. Unlike other businesses, the sale of tobacco products is their sole purpose. Tobacco is, after all, still legal. There are no children admitted and second-hand smoke is not an issue, as non-smokers/tobacco users would not be patronizing such a store.

Ruthanne said...

Addendum"

I should have included that tobacco store employees are highly likely to be smokers/users themselves. Of course, I can't prove that, but I've never been in a tobacco shop where it wasn't the case.

Christopher D said...

Ruthanne, remember this is not about the babies, the council has made it clear this is about the workers at restaurants who are not able to work anywhere else but bussing tables.
TO admit that this is about public health would be to admit the years of excuses shoved down the throats of advocates fighting to have the city cleaned up were unfounded.

The New Albanian said...

With all due respect, Ruthanne, your examples are filled with holes and points for debate. If every customer of a bar smokes, and every employee smokes except for one, to what lengths should we go to protect the one?

Whether the tobacco store employee smokes or not should be irrelevant, shouldn't it? After all, we've established that SDS hurts him or her, anyway, irrespective of personal habits.

bluegill said...

Ruthanne said:

Bluegill wants no exemptions. The only one I'm aware of is tobacco stores. Unlike other businesses, the sale of tobacco products is their sole purpose. Tobacco is, after all, still legal. There are no children admitted and second-hand smoke is not an issue, as non-smokers/tobacco users would not be patronizing such a store.

Whether or not non-smokers are present is not an issue, unless you're regulating preference rather than workplace safety (and claiming that smokers are less worthy of protection).

To be honest, if Kaiser's hadn't been here so long, I don't think that provision would have been included. Even Tommy pointed out that his exemption was bollocks.

The fact that some of the council smiled and nodded as if to say "you're welcome" when he said thanks for exempting his family from the law was a pretty pathetic display of either contempt for equality or supreme ignorance.

BTW, if tobacco is the root of all the problems you say it is, why, of all people, should the council single out the family that makes its living by selling it for exemption? Shouldn't they be trying to drive them from our midst in the interest of public health and medicare savings?

Not all tobacco users smoke and there are plenty of other businesses besides tobacco stores where all or a majority of the employees smoke. How many separate but equal situations do you want to endorse?

And sorry, Brandon, I can't agree with your analysis. If you follow that reasoning far enough, it means that allowing only white males to would be good but not great. I don't think you'd argue that.

At this stage of the game, not a single council member gets it. Make it fair or don't do it. Given the majority's constant CYA maneuvering, I guess we shouldn't be surprised.

Maybe we should get Jamey Aebersold to advocate for code enforcement. Do the Kaisers own any rental property?

bluegill said...

white males to vote

The Bookseller said...

I don't want to sit this one out...nor do I hope to achieve the Gold Medal for debating skills.

BUT, for the record, I favor the ordinance as passed on first reading. ANY changes? I'm totally opposed to a Jeffersonville-like ordinance.

Every argument I've heard against the ordinance remains totally unconvincing.

Brandon W. Smith said...

And sorry, Brandon, I can't agree with your analysis. If you follow that reasoning far enough, it means that allowing only white males to [vote] would be good but not great.

Ha. That would be making the perfect the enemy of the absurd, not the good. I don't fault John Gonder for voting for (what I consider) a good bill - we rarely see perfection in legislation.

All that aside, I agree about enforcement. This city's unwillingness to adequately fund the city legal department or otherwise enforce the law is shameful.

Meatbe said...

Bluegill-

I think that Brandon's argument about not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good is a compelling one. Suppose that women and African American men were both still disenfranchised, and not allowed to vote. Suppose further that a bill was proposed which would allow African American men to vote, but that still did not include women. Would it not be a good and logical first step to proceed with the enactment of the bill, under the hope that the momentum created would lead to the inclusion of women at a point in the near future? Or should the entire bill be rejected as "elitist," thus insuring that both groups would continue to be disenfranchised?

It seems to me that much of the opposition to the ban that I'm seeing here is based upon the peccadilloes of local personalities and perceived personal slights. In the grand scheme, those factors don't carry much weight with me.

Kurt said...

Ruthanne your points are valid, except the last one about smoke shop workers being smokers themselves, this does not matter. Of course, several people pointed that out, and some dismissed your first point by stating that this is about workers, not the public health.

If the rational behind the ordinance is stated as solely concerning the workers then the rational is wrong. You all do realize that you have a right to dispute the rational; you must as you find no such obstacle in disputing the ordinance itself.

Ruthanne's point is correct and it directly addressed the argument made by Healthblogger. He/she stated that people have a choice to enter such establishments, but in truth, they all do not.

Scrap the worker oriented rational, fine, but on the grounds of public health generally the ban makes sense.

Moreover, Healthblogger stated that the government has the role to protect its citizens but that it cannot take away individual decisions. This is not true, nor should it be true in a public place. Bars are not private by the way, they are public. Please don't confuse private ownership with public place. If this were a private club or a residence it would be a different issue, those are private. Does the government have the right to tell bar owners that they cannot choose employees on the basis of color? Indeed they can and do. However, private clubs can maintain membership based upon color as they are not considered to be in the public sphere.
This is not a question about the proper bounds of governmental authority in regulation, but rather a question about if our government should exercise such authority in the interest of protecting the public as weighted against its responsibility to protect the rights of business owners.
Roger posed the question, what lengths should we go to protect the one. I would answer to every length if such protection is just. It is our system of rights that protect the individual that the government is charged with upholding. If it abandoned this charge because those affected were only a minority then it would have given into the dangers of faction James Madison spoke about as embodied by majoritarian tyranny.
Roger I understand your dislike of governmental regulation, especially given your line of work and our nation's history. A prohibition on alcohol cart blanche however is in no way related to this smoking ban. This is not a proposed ban on tobacco as was prohibition on alcohol. In fact as we all know you can't go out on a city street corner or chug some beer while driving down the street in your car without getting arrested for PI, DUI, or open container. This is because drinking in these places unnecessarily places a burden on other citizens who also have rights. Smoke necessarily affects the health of everyone around it and it is this fact that warrants a serious consideration of not whether it should be 'banned' but of where it should be allowed in the interests of promoting the general health of the community.

The New Albanian said...

At some point, I hope that most of the people commenting today will "get" where I'm going with this. In the interim, it's okay that you don't.

I really enjoyed reading this piece on Randy's radio show earlier this evening. He asked a very relevant question. If you didn't listen ... perhaps you should.

The Bookseller said...

For what it's worth, meatbe has earned newfound respect from this quarter.

bluegill said...

Whether or not an exemption filled ban could withstand a direct legal challenge (and I don't think it could based on the precedent that Roger mentioned on-air) is only part of the picture.

If smoking ban foes are clever enough, they'll also challenge this council's authority to enact any legislation.(Better to do it now than to wait for the slumlords to do it.)

In order to rebuff that challenge, the council would have to prove that their authority was granted through a legal election process. They can't really do that.

I'm intrigued, also, by Randy's on-air assertion that if an exception was made to the ban, he'd immediately insist that he, too, be granted the sovereignty to decide the smoking issue for his own business. But, he says here in print that he supports the ordinance as written.

Why do the exemptions in the current ordinance not matter? Or why would new ones matter more or less?

Re: the vote argument- I would hope that most sensible citizens and, quite frankly, our attorney friends especially, would spend their time and talents arguing that everyone should be treated equally under the law rather than trying to justify why they're not.

Then again, Jerry Ulrich may have more job security than anyone in town. The way things are going, the next vote might be to dedicate EDIT money to the council's legal defense fund.

Brandon W. Smith said...

The ban, as written, would almost certainly pass an equal protection challenge under both the Indiana and U.S. Constitution standards.

harleyrider1978 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Christopher D said...

What happens when joe electrician goes into mary smokers house, that technically is his workplace, is mary, under the penalty of fines, forbidden to smoke in her home?
If she is allowed to smoke in her home, is joe electrician afforded equal protection under the law?
I had some very interesting dialog with a council member last night who voted for the ban, and if nothing else, some points I brought up with him gave him very significant pause.
I have the distinct experience to know how the anti-tobacco coalition works, and what they HAVE to do to get their funding, interesting tid bits this councilman was not aware of.

Bill Heinz said...

I was seated on a plane next to the LT.Governor of California when the smoking ban went in effect. He told me that they thought that this would hurt business there. In fact the businesses had more patrons.

Kurt said...

In response to Harleyrider1978’s post I have the following:

First I would like to commend the attempt of harleyrider to back up his/her position with some evidence rather than just posting a completely uninformed opinion. Unfortunately the evidence Harley cited is completely bogus. We all need to be careful about such evidence, it looks very genuine on its surface, but with a little digging it falls apart.

Consider the following:
1. Harley states that ‘Air Quality tests by John Hopkins (et al) prove that secondhand smoke is 2.6 – 25,000 times safer than OSHA workplace regulations.’
- Harley pulled this line from an online pro-smoke blog, and the casual reader may assume that the position of John Hopkins and the CDC is that second hand smoke is not very dangerous. However, here is a link to the actual study referenced - http://www.jhsph.edu/global_tobacco/research/secondhand_smoke/bars_restaurants/baltimore_bars2.html
It is NOT the position of John Hopkins that second hand smoking is safe. In fact, John Hopkins is very clear that second hand smoke is not safe in ANY amount. This is also the position of the CDC. Notwithstanding that this study only measured nicotine, one harmful substance in second hand smoke, while there are hundreds of harmful substances in second hand smoke, OSHA regulations have nothing to do with these studies. If anything, pointing out that OSHA presently allows for some nicotine in the air means that OSHA standards need to be adjusted to be consistent with the modern scientific facts.

Here is what the CDC and John Hopkins are really saying about second hand smoke, this is not pulled from a blog, but from their own studies and websites:

Report on second hand smoke from the U.S. Center for Disease Control:
‘Secondhand smoke exposure causes heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults.’
‘Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their heart disease risk by 25–30% and their lung cancer risk by 20–30%.”
‘Breathing secondhand smoke has immediate harmful effects on the cardiovascular system that can increase the risk of heart attack. People who already have heart disease are at especially high risk’
‘Secondhand smoke exposure causes respiratory symptoms in children and slows their lung growth.’
‘There is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure. Even brief exposure can be dangerous.’
‘Most exposure to tobacco smoke occurs in homes and workplaces.’
‘Each year in the United States, secondhand smoke exposure is responsible for 150,000–300,000 new cases of bronchitis and pneumonia in children aged less than 18 months. This results in 7,500–15,000 hospitalizations, annually.’
http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/Factsheets/SecondhandSmoke.htm

John Hopkins
‘There is no level of exposure to secondhand smoke that is safe. Period," says Jonathan Samet, professor and chair of Epidemiology and senior scientific editor of the Surgeon General's 2006 report on the devastating health consequences of secondhand smoke exposure.’
‘The report—released on June 27—is a clarion call to the public and policy-makers alike to eliminate smoking from indoor environments.’
Moving air in and out of buildings doesn't work, and neither do air filters; if someone is smoking somewhere in a building, other people in that building are likely being involuntarily exposed," Samet warns. "People generally understand that smoking is bad for your health, but the dangers of secondhand smoke are less universally recognized. As a result, many millions of Americans are still being exposed to it in their homes and at work, with very serious health consequences
http://magazine.jhsph.edu/2006/Fall/news_briefs/secondhand_smoke/?subsection_id=50
and
http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/

Please without some reliable studies do not argue that second hand smoke is safe or that OSHA regulations are the same thing as scientific studies; this is not a point for discussion until real evidence is provided to the contrary and online blogs do not constitute reliable evidence.

Second, Harleyrider you misunderstood the scope of Lloyd v. Tanner. It was a case concerning public forum vs. property rights and specifically involved First Amendment guarantees to freedom of speech. No one is claiming that ‘a private business becomes public property’, the legal rule on this is that a private business remains privately owned while simultaneously being a public space if the public is invited in. Thus bars are privately owned public spaces, public libraries are publicly owned public spaces and private clubs are privately owned private spaces.

What concerns me is that a number of state supreme courts are allowing bans in private clubs that are not open to the public. This to me seems to be a serious infringement of constitutional rights and I don’t see how it will stand under the Supreme Courts scrutiny when and if it’s heard by the Court.

bluegill said...

Just wondering, Kurt, since you've presented yourself as knowledgeable on scientific data, if you're ever going to address the difference between correlation and causation.

Most people engaged on both sides of the debate generally avoid doing so as an objective representation of that difference and what effect it has on the legitimacy of statistics presented would blow their arguments straight out of the water.

Kurt said...

Bluegill:
Generally, I assume that the distinction between correlation and causation is understood; when I stated the importance of using peer reviewed mainstream scientific data the distinction was underscored.
First, please don't allow my direct style of argumentation to make you think that I have an inflated sense of expertise in this area. My education focused in social sciences and philosophy, not so much on the empirical side. Heck from a philosophical position I could even argue that causation is impossible to prove under any circumstance and that everything is mere correlation, including phenomena such as gravity. I don't claim knowledge on these matters for sure and would rather defer to Socrates in that all I really know is that I don't.
On the other hand, to support my argument, which by no means is set in stone, I'll defer to the late great Carl Sagan. He said science is like a candle in the dark, it’s a poor tool to gain knowledge, but the best we have.
So to answer your question more directly, I believe that the data can always be used to make one's argument, regardless of the argument, and that many people often use data in such a way as to make a point that is not valid. This is why when we present data in these forums or anywhere, in my opinion, we should use the best we have, poor as it is. And what is that, peer reviewed mainstream science. It's imperfect, but it’s the best we have.
Could the strong correlation that has been shown between smoking and cancer be nothing more than coincidence? Yes. But in like manner, could the correlation between throwing a ball into the air and it always falling back to the ground be nothing but coincidence, yes!
Given the evidence that the ball will return I think it is fair to assume it will and to imply causation, and in like manner, having read the science on cigarette smoke and negative health consequences I think it is fair to state that there is a necessary link.
Now, if you have some peer reviewed mainstream science that can be repeated with the scientific method in a double blind test that strongly suggests that cigarette smoke does not cause negative health consequences, now would be the time to offer it up.

bluegill said...

Thanks, Kurt.

My point was two-fold:

One, is that people arguing both sides not only cherry pick but build their arguments completely outside of an understanding of the methodologies used to birth the assertions made, as you acknowledged. Their mission is to influence policy outcomes rather than to truly educate.

I would contend that those efforts hinder rather than help good decision making over the long haul, which leads to point two.

Legislators, upon hearing those assertions without ever really grasping the context in which they were derived, consider themselves educated when they are not. It's their ignorance, then, rather than improved understanding, that becomes the impetus for legislation.

It's possible that they might arrive at the same conclusions as they would if improved understanding had actually occurred but, as you mentioned, it would be a matter of coincidence rather than purposeful process.

Regardless of one's personal take on smoking bans, neither situation is good for us as we move forward. The question becomes much larger than any single issue: Do you understand the policy upon which you're voting?

People themselves (myself included) are imperfect, but making sure the answer to that question is yes as often as possible is one important marker in measuring progress.

Unfortunately, the answer with regard to this particular piece of legislation thus far seems to be no.

At the very least, thanks again for understanding that much of my concern is about the process and being unusually willing to discuss methodology.

Kurt said...

I share your concerns and well said.

harleyrider1978 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
harleyrider1978 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The New Albanian said...

Given the emotional nature of the debate, I've been exercising a loose interpetation of the house policy on the identity of posters, but it would see that we're approaching reminder time.

Harleyrider and other newcomers, please take note.

NA Confidential believes in a higher bar than is customary in the blogosphere, and follows a disclosure policy with respect to reader comments.

First, you must be registered with blogger.com according to the procedures specified. This is required not as a means of directing traffic to blogger.com, but to reduce the lamentable instances of flaming and personal attacks on the part of the anonymous.

Second, although pen names are perfectly acceptable, the senior editor (yours truly) must be informed of your identity, and according to your preference, it will be kept confidential.

To reiterate, I insist upon this solely to lessen the frequency of malicious anonymity, which unfortunately plagues certain other blogs hereabouts.

You may e-mail me at the address given within my profile and explain who you are. Failure to comply means that your comments probably will be deleted -- although the final decision remains mine.

Thanks for reading, and please consider becoming a part of the community here, one that is respectful of the prerequisites of civilized discourse, and that seeks to engage visitors in dialogue.

Roger (senior editor)

Kurt said...

Roger thank you for that response. Harley, I clearly said my position is not set in stone, and I am willing to consider all sides. However, I do require some evidence to support positions in order to be swayed, which unfortunately you have yet to provide.
You Harley are the one that brought up organizations such as the CDC and John HOpkins, I quoted directyly from their literature in response.
I feel that many of the poeple posting on this site oppose my view and have really good things to say, your last post tyhough Harley is not among them. It was loaded with nothing more than emotional tripe and I think that it speaks for itself. You ahve done more with that post against the anti-smoking ban position (comparing a dissenting view with nazism) than I could have ever done with the facts as I see them.

I applaud the website and the response from the moderators, lets keep this debate at a mature level folks, your responses, even the ones different from my own are respected by me.

harleyrider1978 said...
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The New Albanian said...

Harleyrider: I have clearly stated the terms of engagement at this blog. Scroll up and read it. Anonymity is not permitted; I need to know who you are. You have until 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday to comply with my friendly request, or I will remove your past posts as well as future postings.

Thanks.

Roger (senior editor)

harleyrider1978 said...

SO good for you roger,I for one dont understand your reasoning for wanting to know who I am.......it really doesnt matter who I am.lets just say I dont go for people telling others what to do....bikers are a free lot and laws against freedom dont go well with us.......so to you I say do as you will,your not the only blog in town......

The New Albanian said...

It is this blog's policy of longstanding, and I asked nicely.

You have been offered the option of divulging your identity to me and retaining the use of your screen name. As longtime readers will attest, I keep it mum if that is your wish.

This is not an issue of bikers or, for that matter, anyone else being "free", or "enslaved", or whatever else you cite as an excuse for being antisocial.

It is simply a matter of respect for the rules we maintain. I'm sorry you feel that way. If I visit someone else's house and they ask me nicely to remove my shoes, then that's what I do.

Your posts will now disappear, although I'll archive them for reposting if you have a change of heart.

R

The New Albanian said...

For the housekeeping record, I have removed four posts by Harleyrider. The final one has bene left as a signpost for future reference. The deleted posts have been archived. When and if Harleyrider decides to abide by the house forum rules, I will repost them.

Thanks to readers for understanding why we have these rules. It is not a matter of "freedom", but of "responsibility".

R