Monday, November 20, 2006

Kid! Be careful - broken glass!

Blogging will again be light this week as other writing assignments are coming due. It shouldn’t make much of a difference as Nancy and Monkey Boy have been carrying the weight around here recently. Their discussion on police and the media is quite interesting.

I will interject one bit of new commentary. This weekend was the first time I was in a bar since the smoking ban went into effect. It occurred to me that there is a flaw in the amend-the-smoking-ban argument that I haven’t seen addressed, so I’ll take a moment to do so now.

The smoking ban wasn’t put into place to revitalize bar business by making taverns more tolerable to the non-smoking majority. It was enacted because it was determined that smoke-filled rooms are a health hazard that the government has a duty to protect the public against (you can argue with that if you like, but that’s why it was done.) Therefore, you can’t say that the smoking ban failed and should be amended because bar owners are losing business. If people are breathing in less secondhand smoke, which I would assume to be the case although I don’t know how you’d prove it, then the ban has been affective.

Some how, this needs to be explained to those who believe that health codes can not be enacted at the expense of turning a healthy profit. Allow me to try, using an analogy courtesy of the Not Ready for Primetime Players.

Mainway Industries - makers of such toys as Bag O’ Glass* (a bag of glass bits that teaches kids about light refraction), along with the Pretty Peggy Ear-Piercing Set, Mr. Skin-Grafter, and a Halloween costume called the Invisible Pedestrian – is a profitable company operating legally under what, at the time, are the applicable laws. A stinging exposĂ© by Joan Face spurs a public outcry against Mainway, which results in the Consumer Product Safety Commission banning most of its products.

Company president Irwin Mainway is outraged, although would probably still like to take Ms. Face out for drinks. His company loses revenue, his distributors go out of business, and his customers can no longer sate their perverse desire to ply their children with dangerous toys. So what should be done?

According to the logic being deployed by the Illinois Licensed Beverage Association, the ban on Johnny Switchblade: Adventure Punk and other products that endanger the public health should be lifted so that Irwin can still afford to buy leisure suits with the money he makes selling said merchandise. It would be nice if he could make a living selling safe toys, but if his customers want to put an element of danger under the Christmas tree, then government has no right to interfere.

Of course this isn’t a perfect analogy because bars aren’t selling secondhand smoke, it’s simply a byproduct. But unlike lrwin, bar owners aren’t being forced to give up their livelihood, they just have to adjust to changing market conditions. It’s unfortunate that those conditions aren’t balanced at the present time (see: the Barrel Head), but just because kids in North Korea can still get a General Tron's Secret Police Confession Kit for their birthday, doesn’t mean that we should put them back on the market here.



*The company did include a warning with this product: "Kid! Be careful - broken glass!"

12 comments:

nancy said...

Wow. A perfect analysis of the smoking ban and one that hasn't been mentioned anywhere else that I'm aware of.

Gotta love Dan Ackroyd.

Anonymous said...

"Changing market conditions"? You make it sound as if this were the product of capitalism. It instead is the result of governmental influence, nay, meddling.

I understand the whole public-health/greater-good thing. I just think the U.S. Constitution and its protection of property from the tyranny of government is the greater greater good.

If you missed Rabbi Datz's letter in the paper the other day, go back and read it. He and I share the same position, but he states it more eloquently than I ever could.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

AbPro,

I did read Rabbi Datz’s letter, and while he did present his case well, I didn’t find it compelling. There are things that you can do in your home that you can’t in your place of business once you start inviting the public to come inside. The fact is, that even in capitalist democracies, we do regulate businesses.

Do you think that the government has a right to demand that restaurants have fire extinguishers on the premises or have a certain number of exits per square footage? If you were around when those ordinances were first being proposed, would you have opposed them as being an infringement of property rights by a tyrannical government? If not, how are they different than a smoking ordinance? After all, a restaurant could just put up a sign that said “no fire extinguishers” and then the public could choose to enter at their own risk.

By the way, I’m not nearly such a fascist when it comes to euchre. I always hated the fussy little rules some of my wife’s friends would always try to enforce.

Thanks for commenting,
Dan

nancy said...

Dan

There is a great response to Rabbi Datz's letter in today's (Wed) paper. It pretty much says that when you have to resort to connecting the smoking ban to Nazi Germany, you've exhausted all credible arguments. I agree. Someone last week caught a lot of slack for using the term "smoke Nazis". I guess being able to put "Rabbi" in front of your name is supposed to give that argument cred, but I found it to be a big stretch.

When all is said and done, smokers can still smoke....in their own cars, in their own homes and on any public street they choose.

As far as property rights, as soon as you start charging people for your goods and services, you are beholden to certain government guidelines. As a daycare provider (I prefer the word babysitter), I can't serve my charges spoiled food, or cause them bodily injury without being subjected to the interference of the government. And that's in my own home!

I think that's just fine.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

Nancy,

I'd forgotten that Datz had played the Hitler card. You wouldn't expect that from a Rabbi, at least I wouldn't. Maybe that's why I didn't find his argument compelling.

Thanks for commenting,
Dan

Anonymous said...

The people who support the right to smoke in public places are the same ones who drive exclusively in the left lane on the highway. No matter how many times you logically explain it to them they just don't get it.

We won, so don't try to explain it anymore. Suck on that smokers!

Anonymous said...

I'm not a big fan of smoking, but it seems awfully silly to ban it from bars and taverns. If a market existed for smoke-free bars and taverns, there would have been some already, don't you think?

nancy said...

That time is now. There has to be a start for everything.

It is my un-scientifically based belief that the reason some bars are suffering right now isn't that non-smokers aren't showing up. It's that smokers aren't showing up. They'll come back. Just like they returned to movies and airlines after smoking was prohibited.

Anonymous said...

Oh, crap. I forgot about the unfortunate Hitler card. Scratch everything after that.

Irrelevant analogies aside, I realize I am on the losing side. I only hope that in losing, I can show as much grace as Anon527 shows in winning.

You stay classy, chief.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm, class???? How about the people who are MAKING other people who wish not to, breathe in their disgusting smoke. Now that's classy!!!!

Anonymous 0527

Anonymous said...

The argument that a smoking ban will hurt business for restaurateurs and bar owners doesn't hold water. New York City, where I live, instituted a smoking ban in restaurants and bars a few years ago, but the establishments are all still raking in customers. The smokers among them just step outside when they want to light up. (On a personal note, I love arriving home after a night in a bar or restaurant without the smell of smoke on my clothes or in my hair.)

Anonymous said...

my kid brake the glassess i bought for my another son what should i do