I wanted to get other people’s thoughts on what they see as a violation to “smoker’s rights”, and what isn’t. The question came up in conversation, and I was hoping to get some other people’s opinion. I’m a nonsmoker, so definitely want to know the smoker’s point of view. Especially from the personal freedom and rights aspect.
To start, I’ll share my thoughts, and mention some of the common arguments that I’ve heard.
First of all, I don’t think that cigarettes should be taxed so much more the other things. I’ve heard that the reason for the higher tax on cigarettes is to cover the higher medical costs of smokers. But that has more to do with systematic issues in our health care system (not charging people enough to insure the additional risk?). I’m not convinced that taxes are a good way of covering this cost. We don’t tax people for eating fatty foods at McDonalds. Cigarette taxes are too much of “picking on smokers”. We don’t tax other types of unhealthy behavior.
One exception I would make is for a small tax to go towards health and drug awareness programs. The short surgeon general’s warning does not count as education.
It seems like the most common exceptions to smoking bans is that bars that serve alcohol should be exempt from bans on smoking in public places. I work in manufacturing, where OSHA enforces all kinds of air quality regulations. I don’t think the air quality in bars that smoke would pass OSHA standards. It’s odd that the wait staff at a bar might end up inhaling more smoke than any one of the smoking customers. The fact that it’s customary and enjoyable to smoke while drinking isn’t a convincing counter argument. Another reason given for the bar exception is that the wait staff acknowledge the hazards of the job, and that if the hazard is unacceptable to them, they could always find another job. To me, that’s not a convincing argument either.
Another argument I’ve heard is that the annoyance of cigarette smoke is no different from strong perfume or bad body odor. If we don’t have laws on perfume use or mandatory showers, we shouldn’t have laws against smoking indoors in public places. That’s not a convincing argument because cigarette smoke is worst than strong perfume and bad body odor. I guess this is a pretty subjective statement, and depends on which brand of perfume and whose body odor, and whether the body odor is carcinogenic.
Although I feel bad for smokers having to brave the Minnesota winter due to indoor smoking bans, I feel that their suffering is a result of Minnesota winters being cold, not a result of the indoor smoking ban. It’d be funny to have a summer-only smoking ban.
Indoor smoking bans deprive smokers of enjoying cigarettes in public places, in a social atmosphere. Drinking is an enjoyable social activity that takes place in public spaces, and smokers would like to do the same. Smokers want at least some opportunity to do so, which is the logic behind the common exemption of the bars. Without this exemption, there would be almost no such social opportunities. This is the point where I think opinions diverge and are most difficult to reconcile. Although I understand that an absolute smoking ban totally deprives the socializing opportunity for smokers, I also don’t think exemptions make sense. If it’s wrong to expose people to the nuisance of cigarette smoke at the library or the grocery store, it’s just as wrong to force the wait staff at the bar to breathe it in all day long. Even if everyone who goes to a bar only smoke socially, a waitress making minimum wage with no health insurance might end up smoking more than everyone.
I think that the activity of serving food and alcohol should not be carcinogenic.
I’d like to know about different types of smoking bans, different arguments, and other perspectives on the issue. I haven’t really mentioned the health effects, because that is often the most obvious, and least illuminating. For example, someone could argue that second hand smoke causes cancer. And someone else would argue that computer monitors also cause cancer. That gets to be a less useful discussion I think.