Smoking Ban Arrives, Benefits Exaggerated

By ACSH Staff — Mar 27, 2003
A New York City ban on smoking in bars goes into effect this coming Sunday, and a statewide ban goes into effect four months later. Some see it as reasonable regulation. Others condemn smoking but question the rationale for the regulations. And some see it as a direct blow against liberty. The differing opinions were nicely summed up by the article "Pataki Inks Strict Smoking Law" in today's New York Sun, which quoted, among others, ACSH's own Jeff Stier:

A New York City ban on smoking in bars goes into effect this coming Sunday, and a statewide ban goes into effect four months later. Some see it as reasonable regulation. Others condemn smoking but question the rationale for the regulations. And some see it as a direct blow against liberty. The differing opinions were nicely summed up by the article "Pataki Inks Strict Smoking Law" in today's New York Sun, which quoted, among others, ACSH's own Jeff Stier:

Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, in an impassioned speech in favor of the [state] bill, argued that tobacco users have no right to "poison" the people around them...

A spokesman for the American Council on Science and Health, Jeff Stier, said anti-tobacco activists are exaggerating the dangers of second-hand smoke. "Cigarettes are bad enough on their own," he said. "You don't have to make stuff up."

Republican Assemblyman Daniel Hooker of Schoharie County, a major in the Marine Corps Reserves, said he thought soldiers fighting in Iraq will be disappointed to learn they can't smoke in their favorite bars when they get home. "While you were overseas fighting for freedom, your legislature was quietly legislating your freedom away," Mr. Hooker said. "My father smoked, and he died of lung cancer. But he died a free man."


March 31, 2003

Hello. My fiance died this month from cancer. It was an unknown primary, but more than likely lung cancer. He was only forty-four, but he smoked two packs of cigarettes a day. My fiance was also an alcoholic.

I wonder if his alcoholism weakened his system so that he couldn't fight cancer as well as someone else his age might have. What I do know is how much he suffered from the cancer. Ten straight months of pure pain, and he died a violent death.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that I can't tell which is worse, the alcoholism or the cancer. You see, if he hadn't got the cancer, the alcohol would have ruined his life anyway. In my opinion, tobacco and alcohol are equal evils for those who are susceptible to addiction. I also believe a warning should be put on alcoholic beverages, like on tobacco products.

Death is death. Alcohol and tobacco both cause it.


April 1, 2003

I think everyone can bring up any study, whether pro-smoking or anti-smoking, to be used to their advantage. You can use the WHO, EPA, ACSH, or New England Journal of Medicine and monographs that clearly state they are not be used as an overall evaluation in isolation from the body of scientific evidence. In any of them you can find some form of information to confirm your side of the issue.

What it boils down to is that secondhand smoke is annoying to nonsmokers and that's where the debate should lie: the rights of smokers to smoke versus the rights of nonsmokers to be free of tobacco smoke.

Can no one see where we are heading with all the government control? Are all of you that blind? As the quote goes, "It's easy to curb the freedoms of others when you see no immediate impact on your own."

The anti-smokers have seen these smoking bans as being the most wonderful thing on Earth only because it has no impact on them. Are you looking behind the scenes at what this will do to the economy? Would you like your only source of income, the only way you provide for your family, all of a sudden ripped out right from under you? Would you like 20%-50% of your income ripped away from you? Would you like elected officials, after they passed such laws, openly admitting that they knew they would hurt some businesses but still passed the laws? I see none of these elected officials willing to donate from their salaries to cover my losses.

I'm not a smoker myself, but I own a small bar in a town with about 3,000 people. I serve no food and all my customers are over the age of twenty-one. My seating capacity is less than fifty people and has never been reached in the fourteen years I've been there. All my entrances have notices posted saying that it is a smoking place, and I offer no specialty product or special service that forces any non-smoker to enter. Ninety-five percent of my customers are smokers, I have no employees, and the other 5% of my customers come in and have no problem with smokers. Now I am required by the government to throw these people out. What right does the government have and what right do non-smokers have to control my life, my living, my American Dream? Oh, I forgot non-smokers are perfect. Their rights are so much more important than mine; my children can suffer because I can't pay the bills.

Does anyone realize the reaction that occurs when adults get fed up with the government telling them what they can and can't do? I had two customers over the age of thirty who had never smoked pick up cigarettes the other night, saying they never had the desire to smoke before, but the more they get ordered not to, the more they're inclined to start the habit.

Why are people so blind to government control?

What if they go on to the next biggest killer, obesity? WHO has already provided scientific evidence that obesity is responsible for diabetes, heart attacks, stroke, high blood pressure, and various types of cancer. Over 12 million people die each year from heart disease, plus 3.9 million from hypertension and other heart conditions. Doctors have warned patient after patient to lose weight or they will die. Obesity also contributes to back problems, asthma, and other respiratory problems. My insurance rates and disability rates have been raised greatly by obesity.

The WHO also acknowledges obesity as a problem that can easily be controlled. Overeating is a habit, an emotional crutch, as alcohol and tobacco can be. It's very simple to control it: stop eating and exercise.

I am extremely offended by the obese as I stand behind them in the grocery store and gaze at the crap in their carts, or watch them waddle and huff and puff to the restaurant table to shovel food in their mouths.

Should I stand behind the government and urge them to set a government standard of weight for all adults and children? Shall the obese be denied access to fast food restaurants, certain items in grocery stores, or disability and health benefits? How about denying them driving licenses and forcing them to walk and exercise, all to standards the government sets? Would some people feel their rights were being threatened?

After that, I think the government should set standards for where and when a person can wear perfume and aftershave. I think the chemicals contained in them should be listed. Standing behind someone, let's say, in City Hall and smelling the wave of perfume makes my eyes water and my nose stuff up, and I can taste it in my mouth all day. When I go home, I have to wash my hair and my clothes to get the smell out. I think the government should make wearing all these products in public against the law "public" being any place I am forced to enter because I want the services or products being offered.

I just wish people would wake up and see exactly where we are all letting the government go when we decide it should protect us.

Elizabeth McIntyre

April 2, 2003

Freedom is a multifaceted word. There is freedom to and freedom from, I would suggest. You cannot have the former without the latter. I, as a non-smoker, have the right to breathe smoke-free air, air free from the unhealthy chemicals caused by secondhand tobacco smoke. And this trumps the freedom of a smoker to pollute my air. As far as a smoker's freedom of choice: remember, a smoker has the freedom to smoke or not smoke. I do not have a choice when it comes to breathing.

Not even one citizen should have to contract cancer or emphysema as the price for another's freedom to smoke.

Richard Toes
New York, NY

April 3, 2003

Apart from providing activists with an excellent opportunity to make a buck and to publicize themselves, isn't the passive smoking hoax also an attempt to ban the use of a (clearly) harmful substance since it is widely felt that banning its manufacture and sale would likely be struck down as unconstitutional or would backfire as prohibition did?


Kevin Gray

April 9, 2003

I think the real problem here is how easily the distinction between the public and private domains gets blurred in modern-day politics. According to our country's founding principles, private individuals running private enterprises should be free to act or run their business in whatever manner they choose so long as they do not forcibly interfere with another's right to do the same. Public establishments (those receiving government funding) are traditionally not privy to the same guarantee of rights because the government is force, and thus cannot operate by virtue of voluntary transactions. Bars, restaurants, and other such businesses are private, and they should have the right to control the behavior of patrons that enter upon their property. Non-smokers are never forced to go into smoking establishments and smokers are never forced to go into non-smoking establishments. The same is not true for agencies where the government has a monopoly (like the courtroom and DMV), and people are forced to enter into public property.

It should be known that I hate smoking. I hate the way smoke smells, I hate the way it feels, and I hate how it clings to my clothes and hair for hours after I leave a smoky bar. Cigarette smoke makes me tired and lethargic and it burns my eyes, making my contacts scratchy. This can ruin a good band or a fun night downtown. Lastly, cigarette smoke can give me an anxiety attack. It's happened more than a couple of times. This is all in addition to the dangerous health issues concerning secondhand smoke.

But I never want to see smoking banned in private places. As someone mentioned in a previous response, you have a freedom to and a freedom from. These are not contradictory. You have a freedom to go to any bar that accept customers. You have a freedom from any bar that accept customers. If you don't enter a smoking bar, that bar will never ever hurt you in any way, shape, or form. You also have the freedom to enter non-smoking establishments or gasp! maybe you could start your own! If there were such a demand for a non-smoking bar or venue, don't you think that demand would be met by the market? Or are people just too stupid and ignorant to know what they really want?

I'm sick of people whining and complaining because they don't want to take personal responsibility for their actions. I'm sick of people looking to the government as a "guardian angel" that will protect them from all dangerous substances and situations. Every attempt at this has failed miserably, and people still die everyday from substances that the government supposedly regulates or prohibits. What's more, people now believe that everything the government doesn't control is perfectly safe (see the ephedra article), because they've come to rely on the state as the ultimate and omnipotent "Consumer Reports" for the populace. Common sense and personal responsibility are increasingly thrown away in favor of the indisputable "common good."

The real consequence of smoking bans is that nothing will be sacred any more, especially not private businesses that are trying to provide customers with what they want. Their critics are intent on proving that such enterprises are injuring the health of patrons all in the name of greedy profiteering. Once reasoning like this enters into law, all bets are off. Nothing will be private, and nothing will be voluntary. The government will determine where you should and should not go and what activities you should engage in. Everything will become the public domain, where rights get tossed aside like junkmail. If you think this is an overzealous doomsday prediction, just look at American politics for the past thirty years. Once rights go, they don't come back.

Daniel Gardner
Decatur, Georgia

April 13, 2003

Yeah, never mind all the drunks that attend all these places, then get in their gas hogs and go kill someone driving drunk but are not tested before they leave these holy places.

Get real. Passive smoke is no more dangerous than a soda pop. It's proven that it's all a lie just as Bush, Bloomberg, Cheney, Rumsfeld are all liars. The economic impact of the smoking ban will be more devastating than imagined (I hope) in Florida, California, and wherever else passes this flagrant act of discrimination. It won't stick. If it does, then Americans are done for.

June 9, 2003

To Dr. Whelan, ACSH President:

You have most likely addressed this question before, but: Is there anything at all that could be done to actually ban the production, distribution, etc. of all tobacco products in this country?

It seems to me that:

  • smoking poses such a health threat to so many,
  • so many are suing tobacco companies,
  • government imposes taxes and laws against smoking,
  • advertising has been banned,
  • we spend millions on anti-smoking ads,
  • not to mention the whole smoking cessation industry...

But government cannot step in and call a halt to it.

Is it that they can't or won't? I'm confused.

Bottom line is, Dr. Whelan, I'm a smoker, have been for some twenty-five years. I have given every way to quit smoking as honest a try as I could. I would love it if one day, soon, the entire tobacco industry ceased to exist.

I realize such an action would cause a tremendous amount of strife to a lot of people. But surely something else can be done with the tobacco fields and production facilities.

Within a relatively short period of time the remaining supplies of cigarettes and cigars would be sold off and either hoarded or used. Some people would try smuggling them in. Others might try to grow tobacco.

In the long run, though, the money we save from not smoking would surely cover the added requirements to police the situation similar to other illegal drugs.

At what point is America willing to make history? And why do we allow ourselves to harm ourselves?

Vito Bolognone