Tuesday, August 05, 2008

If you've been a slumlord for more than 100 years, are you exempt?

My father used to sit at the breakfast table huffing down the day's third cigarette while he warned me not to smoke. My grandfather's admonition came from a hospital bed. Dad quit a few years later and is happily still around to drop the occasional missive. Grandpa never came home from the hospital.

I suppose that's a personal way of saying that McLuhan was right. The medium is the message.

In much the same way, a council whose majority still refuses to follow the law laid it down for others last night, passing the first reading of a public smoking ban, five votes to four with Price, Benedetti, Messer, and Zurschmiede voting nay. It was disappointing for some, gush-worthy for others, and surprising to just about everyone.

It should be mentioned that Tommy Kaiser took to the podium to thank the council for exempting his family from the law as tobacco retailers will play by different rules than seemingly every other business in town. Apparently, none of the death and disease statistics quoted and misquoted last evening apply to people who work in that industry. Either that, or the council has decided that their lives aren't worth saving.

Smoking ban? There are so many false claims made by both proponents and opponents that I guess you've got to grab on somewhere and hope for the best. So be it. Get rid of the exceptions and it's equitable. Keep them or add to them and the courts will (and should) decide yet another matter in our community. With enforcement being nearly impossible as the current ordinance is written, it may not matter anyway.

What really does matter is that the council's newfound zeal for public health continues into matters that stand to have a more profound effect on the city and its inhabitants. Nearly 50 percent of the houses in New Albany are rentals, operating as businesses outside the bounds of regulation.

I've never had to call 911 to report smoking related disturbances, although I suppose I could soon. The same can't be said for an unregulated rental market that takes advantage of those who can't do better and provides safe haven for those who won't. The last time I called about a property on my block, the dispatcher described the rental as "the same old place" and informed me I was the third caller that early, early morning as if I'd just won a radio contest. The problem is obvious and has been during several council iterations.

To that end, I mentioned a particularly problematic and vociferous landlord to a council member last night and was assured that her very negative business practices were well understood. They should be. If esoteric reports from oncologists are fodder for council decisions, a walk down the street shouldn't be too much to ask.

The only thing left is to determine whether or not this council has the will to stand up to the inevitable lobby of such deceitful, uncaring opportunists. A refreshingly constructive discussion of rental property regulation during Monday's work session provided evidence that they might. If they do, the smoking ban may come to be seen as a first step in reorienting ourselves toward a healthier future. If they don't, we may as well lay back down, tether ourselves to breathing machines, and wait for the coroner to pronounce our cause of death as proving the critics right one too many times.

Smoking ban gets first OK, by Dick Kaukas of the Courier-Journal

21 comments:

bluegill said...

An anonymous source emailed a fake news report image with the following words:

"BREAKING NEWS - COFFEY KIDNAPPED
Imposter sits in for New Albany council member, votes for progressive ordinance."

Should said anonymous source be reading, I'd point out that while the image is somewhat funny, whether or not a ban on workplace smoking is inherently progressive or not is debatable.

What I'm really waiting for, though, is a non-anonymous, objective argument that explains why some workers aren't worth protecting. If one can't be made, the ordinance thus far is anything but progressive. It's regressive in the grand tradition of separate but equal.

Someone might also want to explain how the ordinance, as written, will be effectively enforced.

Don't mind me, though. I'm busy not gushing over what is currently a well-intentioned but flawed piece of legislation.

The discussion of rental properties, however, was undeniably progressive, more so than probably any other conversation I've ever heard from this or any other New Albany council I've witnessed.

Should it continue in a similar vein along with relevant, concomitant action, I'll duly cop to being impressed.

Christopher D said...

My question that deserve to be answered in the spirit of all or nothingness regarding the ban, where does the law stand if a a plumber or HVAC tech enters the home of a smoker to perform repairs or duties, does that not, by default, become their workplace and become subject to fines if the owner smokes, or if the SHS is still present in the home?
Or are such workers not worthy of the protection under the ban since generally speaking they may be considered more "successful" than a bus boy or server at the hitchin' post?

Iamhoosier said...

Christopher,
You raise an interesting question and one that I have not pondered. I will.

In the meantime, I know that you are against this proposal. Can I ask you a question(maybe 2)?

Do you believe that SHS is harmful?

If no, any possible disagreement between us is not about the proposal but about the effects of SHS.

If yes, how do you propose to protect employees from SHS?

Christopher D said...

Hoosier,
Yes, I am opposed to this ordinance, which is fairly obvious.

To fairly answer your questions:
#1: do I believe SHS is dangerous?
That is a simple answer; yes it is dangerous, and potentially harmful with long term chronic exposure.
Do I feel the risks associated with exposure to SHS outweighs the risks associated with long term chronic exposure to other elements of environmental pollutants, no I do not.
To emphasize the impact SHS can have on ones health is continuously compared to other pollutants we spew out by choice, car exhaust, chemicals in the form of cleaners, pesticides, etc.
Do I think that this is being addressed as a workplace safety issue since it failed as general public health protections, yes I most certainly do. A few key words were changed, and Viola, all of a sudden it is a crisis, and not longer an irritant.
So, to answer the second part of that question, how do we protect employees from SHS? How do we protect employees from every potential hazard they may encounter during their careers? (And are we opening the door for billion dollar lawsuits if Joe Server contracts non-small cell carcinoma of the lungs, which may or may not be related to the two months he worked at Applebee’s and encountered SHS.
What the main portion of my opposition comes from, at what point do we as a society stop placing the expectation of protection from everything on the government, and accept accountability for ourselves?
Joe Server decides to take a serving at a locally owned eatery where the owner chooses to allow smoking, during the application process, Joe had driven passed McD's, Burger King, and KY fry a half dozen times, all with signs posted in neon, "NOW HIRING", where indoor smoking is not permitted by corporate headquarters.
Joe takes the job at locally owned eatery, with the full knowledge that there is smoking taking place in the facility, he fills out the I-9's, W2's and accepts the job, even though the interviewer was smoking during the process, and customers were smoking as well.
There is no way Joe can claim he did not know the SHS could be harmful, it has saturated everything from Saturday morning cartoons to stories in the news.
So who is ultimately responsible for Joe encountering the second hand smoke? He knew it was there before he agreed to take the job, and he knew there were opportunities at other places where smoking was not allowed.
It is the smokers fault for being a patron at the eatery where the owner deemed it ok to smoke in their business? Is it the Owners fault for allowing smoking, even though the majority of his particular customers are smokers?
Or is it the government’s responsibility to protect Joe from having to make a decision?
I know generally one can not answer a question with, more questions, but this is far too cyclical to have a definitive answer.
All I know is this; the millions upon millions of dollars being spent in propaganda for the tobacco coalitions to lobby for these bans are being misspent in my humble opinion. The only way to effectively remove the hazard of SHS is through attrition, to increase focus on the next generations with preventative measure to keep them from smoking.
When all of us heathen smokers die off from our horrid early deaths (never mind the throngs of dried up 80 and 90 year olds sucking down pall mall non filters like it was water and they were in the desert, that is an optical illusion created by the tobacco companies), we can end this smoking debate once and for all.
After all, this world does not belong to us; we only borrow it from our children!

G.Coyle said...

pass the anti-smoking ordinance like the rest of the world and get on with it... like anyone is going to waste negative resources enforcing it. Roger, I think your often blogging this subject is much ado about nothing. I just don't see it affecting anyone but Kaisers and some bars downtown. The weather is mild here, I'm sure people will learn how to smoke out of doors as they have most other places by now, with the exception of China.

Can we focus on what really is destroying new albany, and the real issues we can rally around and push forward with, like slumlords amd crime and trashed historic assets? We need to spend all our energy moving forward to have even half a chance of reaching critical mass here.

Less fighting, more progressive action.

bluegill said...

G,

I think if you review what I wrote the past two days (and what Roger wrote previously), you'll find that most of it is in agreement with your comment. In fact, that agreement was the major impetus for writing.

Iamhoosier said...

Chris,
Perhaps I am missing something but it seems your displeasure stems from two things. Irritant vs something more dangerous. Not sure that either of us knows the definitive answer to that.

The second is employee choice. You are saying that an employee has a choice of working in a smoking environment or not. Why do we have ANY safety regulations for ANY employee, in ANY working conditions? If you take that argument forward, why not let the labor market decide on safety?

Company A provides many safety measures, which are costly, and offers $12/hr. Company B provides no safety measures and offers $20/hr. Surely this is not what you are advocating.

I agree, it is a very complicated. Even with safety measures in place, accidents still happen. Workers get hurt or die. That doesn't mean that we stop trying to make the workplace safer.

Larry M. Summers said...

While in college, I wrote a paper about the effects of trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids on cancer cases caused by drinking water. This paper focused on the water facility in Borden, IN, and it was quite extensive.

The results of the paper show that the 1 in 10,000 consumers would develop cancer every nine years. If you were to extrapolate that to the population of New Albany (which would be easy to do since much of the water for Borden comes from New Albany), which has a population of of 46,902 according to the census website, you would have someone developing cancer from drinking the water every two years. Should we ban the consumption of water in New Albany while we are banning smoking.

According to the proponents of this ban, it only seems logical to ban the consumption of water in New Albany. We better hope they get the ban into effect before the next person gets cancer--in two years.

Christopher D said...

Hoosier,
That is not what I am advocating at all, I am simply stating that there are choices to be had by people, competative wages in establishments that have different policies on smoking.
In regards to Mr. Summers statement, the fundamental issue with such a ban can be expanded to many many things, perfumes causing asthma attacks, foodborne allergies causing deadly reactions when it is accidentally encountered by hundreds of people annually, not to mention thousands of people who have reactions that are deadly, the list is endless.
In the long run, yes we can limit the exposure we have to the toxins in SHS, but we can not completely remove the hazards no matter how many laws are passed. We pump out so many carcinogens on a daily basis in so many manners, in our water, in our air, in our food and drinks, what we decorate our homes with, hell even down to that lovely "new car smell" that is a stew of fumes released from different chemical compounds from glues, vinyl, plastics, carpeting.
but I suppose I have really went off topic here.
My biggest reason for NOT supporting this ban is simple in one manner, New Albany has bigger issues at hand than worrying about this right now. Am I opposed to the ban on the basis of individual rights, at one time yes, now, no. A persons rights end when their fist hits the nose of another.
Would I support a comprehensive ban on smoking in public venues AFTER we have cleaned up the infrastructure of this city, surprisingly, even as a smoker, my answer is yes, as long as it was fair and even across the board, and did not allow exemptions for political cronies in exchange for free beer.

Iamhoosier said...

Actually, that is the point that several of us are trying to make. This decision has to come down to the hazard of SHS.

Not liking to eat or drink where there is smoking is irrelevant. Likewise are all the other arguments for and against the ordinance, including "exceptions".

Is SHS harmful enough to employee welfare that it needs to be banned? That is the only question to be answered. If yes, then the ban has to be absolute. If not, then there should be no ban at all(from a governmental level).

I'm not personally qualified to make the determination on the danger of SHS. Someone the other night made mention of "who to believe", the Surgeon General or Rush Limbaugh. Not sure how good either of those choices are. Actually, I'm sure one of them is not worth a damn.

Highwayman said...

So Hoosier,

You don't trust the Surgeonn General either huh??

Highwayman said...

By the way, has anyone but me noticed the conspicuous absence of DR. Dan from Health Blogger on this issue??

Just asking!

Iamhoosier said...

Funny you should ask that, H-wayman. I had just thought the same thing and went to his blog to see if, perhaps, he had written about it there. As of right now, not yet.

Larry M. Summers said...

For those of you that don't know me, I just wanted to make it clear, I am a non-smoker; however, if you were to eliminate a cause of public/employee harm, you would have to eliminate too many things. There are far too many dangers in this world for legislation to protect us from; we must use common sense and steer clear of things we know are harmful.

In this free market society, the consumer should dictate would organizations survive. Consumers should be able to decide on their own whether a restaurant or bar is safe. In our country and state, employees can move freely to where they would like to work so long as the place will employ them. It is likely that someone that wants to work in a smoke-free environment can find a job in said environment without the need for governmental interference.

Iamhoosier said...

Larry,
So, you would be in favor of doing away with all safety regulations in the workplace?

Wow!!

Larry M. Summers said...

Hoosier,

You know that is not what I meant by any stretch of the imagination. I just don't want the government slowly taking away freedoms by imprisoning us slowly with bars of legislation.

I have lost a friend because of negligence on his company's part. I am not willing to stand by as companies willing allow their employees to die from direct hazards; however, I feel that indirect hazards are faced daily and companies should not be held accountable for those because they can be encountered anywhere and everywhere.

Iamhoosier said...

Larry,
I realize that you did not mean anything quite so sweeping as your comments suggested. Just practicing a little "shock and awe".

You are young man and based on our first meeting and few postings on the blogs, I would say a fine, intelligent young man.

Some people said DDT was an indirect hazard. Asbestos was considered a wonderful thing and don't you think the producers of that product and their employees fought doing away it? That the government was slowly taking away their freedom of choice? Why not let the builders decide if they want to risk exposure? Why not let the let the buyers weigh the risk?

Extreme examples? Yeah, in the bright sunshine of today. The same arguments have been used for years and years. I don't know if SHS rises to the level of asbestos or even any danger level at all.

As I stated in an earlier comment above, there is only one question to be answered. Everything else is a irrelevant.

Christopher D said...

One "smokers rights" blog author has been challenging anti-tobacco advocates for year to produce three legal death certificates that list exposure to second hand smoke as a contributing cause of death, I will try to find that website and post a link, the last I has heard no one has provided them for him.
Personally, I just dont think this is the time for this now in NA. Too many other big fish to fry fish

Ceece said...

(There's a big difference between choosing to work at Mcdonald's for $8/hr and working in a rest such as Morton's or even Buckhead's and making 2-3 times that in tips.)

Christopher D said...

where did the other 15 responses go?

Ceece said...

what happened to all the comments?