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Why Isn't Ohio's Indoor Smoking Ban Reducing Smoking?

In 2006, Ohio voters approved a ban on smoking indoors, including bars and restaurants. The ban took effects in December 2006. One would think that the prohibition would reduce smoking rates, right? After all, the prohibition increases the costs of smoking quite significantly for many smokers (particularly in the winter). Yet according to this story, the smoking rate in Ohio has increased by three percent since 2007. What gives?

KevinQ (mail) (www):
Isn't that like asking "Why haven't stronger laws against drunk driving decreased speeding rates?"

The point of the Ohio law was not to eliminate smoking generally, but to eliminate it in specific locations.

There are many reasons why smoking might be increasing - I hear that stress can cause people to smoke more, and these are stressful times for many people. Moreover, the passing of the ban in 2006 might have encouraged some people to quit smoking, or report that they had quit, but they find themselves back at it a year later.

K
12.4.2008 11:10am
Houston Lawyer:
Smoking reduction isn't an overnight thing.

Houston enacted a similar ban on smoking in bars in restaurants recently. Some restaurant owners near jurisdictions that permit smoking claimed that their business would be hurt, but I haven't heard whether that was the case.

I will say, as a nonsmoker, that it is nice to be able to go to a bar and not reek of smoke when I get home.

Smoking is still allowed on patios at restaurants and bars here. Some anti-smoking advocates didn't even want to leave this small amount of free space. I think we have reached the limit on how far you can reasonably push the rights of non-smokers.
12.4.2008 11:16am
Elliot123 (mail):
Why should we care if people smoke?
12.4.2008 11:24am
Old33 (mail):
All I care about is that I can go to any bar or restaurant when I'm home in Ohio and not leave smelling like smoke.
12.4.2008 11:38am
CC (mail):
Elliot123:

Because we the people pay for the diabetes, heart disease and cancer caused by the behavioral choices of smokers. Better question is why we have Medicaid and Medicare.
12.4.2008 11:39am
Hume (mail):
"Why should we care if people smoke?"

People care because of two reasons: (1) paternalism ("I know what is right for you and you should do what is right") and (2) healthcare costs. The second reason is what is scary about the prospect of universal healthcare. Many people believe in aspects of Mill's harm principle. With the socialization of health care costs, however, activities that once were thought of as harmless to others (e.g., smoking, riding a motorcycle without a helmet) are now activities that inflict tangible harm on others (i.e., this activity is dangerous to you health, and when you are injured, my costs go up as well--thus, i am harmed by your act). Thus, universal healthcare brings within the scope of "legitimate" government regulation (according to Mill) acts which harm nobody but the individual taking part in the act.
12.4.2008 11:44am
therut (mail):
Only the rich will be free in the future. The masses will be controlled and most will like it. Those who do not??? Watch out there liberals there are sexual practices that will harm others who pay your health costs. Think about it.
12.4.2008 11:55am
Steve:
I'm not a smoker, but I can't imagine there are very many people who think "I can't smoke in restaurants any more, so I might as well just quit."
12.4.2008 12:03pm
TruePath (mail) (www):

All I care about is that I can go to any bar or restaurant when I'm home in Ohio and not leave smelling like smoke.


Yah, and I'd like to be able to go to clubs and not have to see any fat/ugly/bald/whatever people. Or if you prefer an activity based law we could outlaw bad dancing and lame pickup lines. Just because I'd be happier if a certain class of people or to be free from a certain sort of behavior doesn't mean the law should guarantee that.
12.4.2008 12:05pm
NoSmo Jones (mail):
Michigan is now considering the same ban. As much as I personally always swim in the non peeing part of the pool, I can't help but see this as nanny state legislation. Why can't the legislators simply manadate insurance companies to set health care premiums for smokers and non smokers? Isn't that the market approach that should be embraced and, even if ineffective to stop some from smoking, would be effective in fairly passing on the costs to those that chose to engage?
12.4.2008 12:06pm
BCN:
I don't care if people smoke. I am grown up enough to realize that going to a bar may mean people smoking around me. That is part of a "bar" experience to my mind.

I live in Virginia and you can still smoke in bars here, but over the last few years new bars that are non-smoking have opened and established bars have gone non-smoking so people have a choice. I have no issue with some bars allowing people to smoke in them. If you don’t want to smell like smoke go to non-smoking bars.

Additionally, I cannot stand the argument about higher health care costs being paid for by everyone; therefore everyone can tell me what to do. This kind of reminds me of the Commerce Clause being used to justify the Federalization of all kinds of laws; such as "the gun used in a crime came from another State", an "abused woman affects overall economic performance of a State", or "the fertilizer used to grow personal consumption pot came from another State" so Congress can Federalize and/or regulate all these activities.

It is my feeling that my bad habits are balanced out by your bad habits, so overall it is a wash cost wise. Finally, neither of us should be leveraging the coercive power of the State to tell people how to live.

BCN
12.4.2008 12:13pm
jpe (mail):
I've always been shocked that a system of licensing hasn't been adopted. Create a limited number of "smoking licenses," let bars &restaurants bid on them for the initial distribution, allow resale, and then let the market sort it out.
12.4.2008 12:14pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
I'd take up smoking just to make those jerks mad.

I hope people who push garbage like this have trouble sleeping at night...
12.4.2008 12:16pm
Portland (mail):

Just because I'd be happier if a certain class of people or to be free from a certain sort of behavior doesn't mean the law should guarantee that.


While I was initially skeptical of the results, the evidence that secondhand smoke in indoor environments is harmful is now solid (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18262402). It's dangerous, as well as distasteful, particularly to those that work in those environments. Free expression does not include releasing toxic chemicals into the environment, damaging the lungs of strangers.
12.4.2008 12:16pm
AnotherMike:
Doesn't the fact that smoking has not gone down demonstrate that this indoor smoking ban is really NOT a significant increase in the cost of smoking? Of course, the purpose of the indoor smoking ban was to free non-smokers from involutary exposure to second-hand smoke. So, it's a win-win; non-smokers no longer need suffer from unwanted second-hand smoke and smokers suffer no significant cost as evidenced by the fact that their numbers have not decreased. Jonathan, you've made a great argument for indoor smoking bans in other states!
12.4.2008 12:16pm
TJIC (www):
> I've always been shocked that a system of licensing hasn't been adopted. Create a limited number of "smoking licenses," let bars &restaurants bid on them for the initial distribution, allow resale, and then let the market sort it out.

As we've recently seen in the FBI bust of MA state reps Wilkerson and Turner, the whole point of licensing is to give politicians political power to reward their friends, punish their enemies, and extort rents from everyone else.

Statists hate markets because it means that politicians lose power.
12.4.2008 12:17pm
Forgotten Password (mail):
Old33:

All I care about is that I can go to any bar or restaurant when I'm home in Ohio and not leave smelling like smoke.


Then you should choose a restaurant that prohibts or segregates smoking.

Consider [card-playing] -- the provebial genesis of smoke in the air. Do you know how many ordinances it took to make the largest major [card-playing] rooms in the counrty non-smoking? None. The largest and most notable [card-playing] rooms (Bellagio, Bay 101, Foxwoods, etc.) went non-smoking because more players were chosing not to play because of the presence of smoking than players who were chosing not to play because it was banned. The market responded accordingly. (Atlantic City has since enacted -- and repealed -- anti-smoking laws affedcing the [gaming] floor as a whole.)

Not to mention that the public/private balance is completely backwards. The government decides that it wants to curb the effects of smoking on those who prefer to avoid it. So they enact an ordinance that ensures crowds of smokers outdoors where everyone must be exposed to it.

The better solution is to ban smoking in public places under exercise of its police powers, provided that they leave private property owners free to decide whether to permit smoking within their premises.

[And boo-hiss to the need for sanitized square bracketed words]
12.4.2008 12:18pm
ASlyJD (mail):
How about an "opt-out" system for Medicare/Medicaid? Smokers sign an agreement that they will never collect benefits and are issued a license. Stores are then required to check the license for anyone buying cigarettes.

Or after some 400 lb. person refuses to lose weight, issue them a similar card denying them benefits.

Of course, I'm of the opinion that if I'm paying for someone's health care, I get the right to tell them to quit smoking and maintain a healthy body weight. Let those who wish to destroy their health do so on their own dime.
12.4.2008 12:22pm
JK:
An addictive product is also a deviation form perfect competition. Addition makes demand highly inelastic, mitigating the effects of (at least short term) changes in price. I'd be interested to see if the number of people who label themselves as "trying to quit" as changed with the increase in price (in the form of inconvenience).
12.4.2008 12:22pm
Yankev (mail):

Because we the people pay for the diabetes, heart disease and cancer caused by the behavioral choices of smokers. Better question is why we have Medicaid and Medicare.



CC, diabetes, I would think, is more likely to result from diet (especially highcarb, high glycemic foods, with high fructose corn syrup being a leading offender), weight and lack of exercise. Genetics also plays a role, and women who experienced gestational diabetes are at higher risk.

Also, is it not true that by dying earlier, smokers may actually reduce insurance costs that would have been incurred had they lived longer? End of life care is always expensive, but non-smokers need expensive end of life care, too.

The real answer is the first one that you cited.
12.4.2008 12:29pm
Xmas (mail) (www):
You're missing the obvious reason.

The "rate" of smoking is increasing because a large number of non-smokers have moved out of the state.

http://www.wcpn.org/index.php/WCPN/news/10168/
12.4.2008 12:36pm
Steve P. (mail):
I'm a former smoker that has always been partial to the smoker's lobby arguments (let the market sort it out), but ultimately sided with the anti-smokers side. Results matter.

I was one of those smokers that smoked outside (except in bars), no matter the weather, so I didn't think it too high a price to pay. Too cold outside? Bundle up or skip the cig.
12.4.2008 12:45pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Elliot123:

Because we the people pay for the diabetes, heart disease and cancer caused by the behavioral choices of smokers.

We the people choose to pay. There's no obligation on the smokers' part to reward that freely-made choice with changed behavior.
12.4.2008 12:48pm
Brian K (mail):
Yah, and I'd like to be able to go to clubs and not have to see any fat/ugly/bald/whatever people. Or if you prefer an activity based law we could outlaw bad dancing and lame pickup lines.

none of these things would harm you. smoking will.
12.4.2008 12:49pm
commontheme (mail):
What nonsense. The purpose of the smoking bans is to protectallow non-smokers who do not wish to breath tobacco smoke.

Do you receive money from the tobacco companies?

I can't think of any reason why anyone would construct such a strawman argument to try to criticize the ban.
12.4.2008 12:49pm
Smokey:
The Economist has repeatedly pointed out that smokers cost the health care system less than non-smokers, because they die younger and faster, while non-smokers tend to linger on.

Old33:
All I care about is that I can go to any bar or restaurant when I'm home in Ohio and not leave smelling like smoke.
I agree, smoke is stinky.

However, in states like California [and in many localities], when these laws were first mooted the bar owners pleaded that they should be allowed to designate their establishments as either smoking or non-smoking. Failing that, they asked that they be allowed to have a separate smoking room with adequate ventilation separate from the building's main HVAC system.

But the Nanny State libs -- knowing full well what is good for everyone -- rammed through their laws making a legal substance illegal in the entire bar/restaurant establishment.

They should walk the walk with that precious tolerance they're always talking about. But they only talk the talk.

[IANAS.]
12.4.2008 12:49pm
Tom C.:
I think Yankev is right. Smoking actually decreases total health care costs by killing people quicker at younger ages.
12.4.2008 12:53pm
commontheme (mail):
Hmmm, it seems that Mr. Adler's former employer was funded in part by our friends in the tobacco industry, per Wikipedia:


# 1991 - $10,000 donation to CEI from Philip Morris (PM) [7]
# Feb. 9, 1993 - letter from Fred Smith of CEI to Thomas Borelli at PM thanking PM for support.[8]
# 1995: PM gives $200,000 grant to CEI for "general operating support" [9]
# 1995 : PM gives another $10,000 to CEI [10]
# 1997: PM gives $120,000 to CEI [11]
# 1998 PM Public Policy Contributions list. Says PM paid CEI $25,000 via check no. 390006 [12]
# (Non-financial item) 1998: Activity Report of Beverly McKittrick of PM states, "Worked on plan for mobilization of third--party conservative groups. Met with CSE, ATRA, Chamber of Commerce,Frontiers of Freedom, and Competitive Enterprise Institute." [13]
# 1999 Public Policy Contributions (PM): $5,000 paid via check No. 20601 [14]
# 1999 Activity report of PM's Thomas Borelli states: "Secured policy group committee funding to support the Competitive Enterprise Institute dinner" [15]
# Undated Brown &Williamson document listing pro-business organizations BW contributes to. CEI is on the list: [16] (see top of page 5, "Policy Organizations :Total $325,000")
# In 1999 PM budgeted $25,000 for CEI
12.4.2008 12:53pm
AnotherMike:

The Economist has repeatedly pointed out that smokers cost the health care system less than non-smokers, because they die younger and faster, while non-smokers tend to linger on.


The relevant question is not cost but net. Presumably, if smokers die younger, they have fewer productive years and thus pay less into the system.
12.4.2008 1:03pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Hmmm, it seems that Mr. Adler's former employer was funded in part by our friends in the tobacco industry, per Wikipedia:
What's your point?
12.4.2008 1:08pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
The relevant question is not cost but net. Presumably, if smokers die younger, they have fewer productive years and thus pay less into the system.
Presumably, that's not true at all, since smokers aren't generally keeling over in their 30s, but later in life, after they've stopped paying into the system.
12.4.2008 1:14pm
Sarcastro (www):
Can we make a parallel between laws banning smoking and those banning abortion?
12.4.2008 1:14pm
b:
i'm not sure why all of the pro-smoking ban people care what goes on in a bar. after all, alcohol is BAD FOR YOU! who would be caught dead drinking it? those silly drinkers are raising OUR healthcare costs! lets ban smoking and drinking and be done with it.

fat people, we're coming for you next...
12.4.2008 1:15pm
I would be more interested ...:
in seeing the statistics of bars'/restaraunts' profits decreasing since the ban was passed. They strongly opposed the ban because they said that it would cut into their business. Of course, with so many anti-growth policies being enacted in Ohio over the past few years, it would be hard to determine the cause/effect of any particular policy.
12.4.2008 1:21pm
Steve:
Generally speaking, the stated reason for smoking bans is not to protect consumers, who have a choice about where they dine, but to protect workers, who have less of a choice. Sure, you could say that if an employee doesn't want to breathe smoke, they should go work at a non-smoking restaurant, but in the real world it doesn't work quite like that. And you could make the same argument about any workers' safety law, but in our society, only the most hardcore libertarians believe that workers should have the "choice" to work in an unsafe workplace.
12.4.2008 1:25pm
Should let us drink outside...:
My guess as to what gives (a low minded response after all this policy talk...):

When smokers go outside to smoke, their non-smoking friends often follow them out. These non-smoking friends get bored (can't bring their alcohol outside, at least where I live), so they have a smoke. I've seen it a million times. It almost always starts off as a social thing (much to the dismay of those who think that Camel Joe is to blame).

Then again, could just be a statistical aberration.
12.4.2008 1:28pm
Brian Mac:
Are smoking restrictions in public places really so incompatible with libertarianism? I mean if you accept that second hand smoke is harmful, then smokers in bars, etc., are committing acts of violence on those around them. Isn't that one of the few times the state is supposed to step in?
12.4.2008 1:33pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
In Massachusetts, there was a drop in lung cancer, mostly among nonsmokers, after no-smoking-in-bars rules went into effect. I haven't studied the study to see if it was statistically flawed or funded by people looking for that particular result. Maybe somebody can check the stats for Ohio.
12.4.2008 1:38pm
Mike Keenan:
The survey used to generate this could have been taken before the law was passed or before enforcement started. Also, the survey probably has a margin of error greater than any 1-year trend like that. It is not likely to mean much to look at that.
12.4.2008 1:40pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
One would think that getting lung cancer, beating it by having a lung removed would act as a deterrent to further smoking-- especially when that person is a doctor. No way. Said person continued to chain smoke. One would think a famous statistician who did studies on the effects of air pollution on respiratory health would also not smoke. No way.

Tobacco smoke is one of the very few, if not the only drugs that can simultaneously pep you up and calm you down. A lot of people like that and won't give it up. So I'm not surprised at all that we don't see a reduction. BTW I am not and have never been a smoker of anything including tobacco.

Does second hand smoke actually cause health problems for the majority of people? The evidence seems to point in this direction, but are inconsistent with the dose-response models for ordinary smoking. SHS seems to be actually more potent than direct smoking once you adjust for concentration. This make no sense.
12.4.2008 1:46pm
AnotherMike:

Presumably, that's not true at all, since smokers aren't generally keeling over in their 30s, but later in life, after they've stopped paying into the system.


Smokers are keeling over at all different stages of life. The number of those who die before 65 because of smoking are hardly insignificant. Only a fool would deny that. Thus, the point I made--smokers on average pay less into the system than nonsmokers on average--makes sense. So, even assuming as true that smokers cost the system less money, that doesn't answer the question of whether nonsmokers subsidize smokers health care because they pay more into the system.
12.4.2008 1:49pm
David Welker (www):
It is a highly twisted logic that asserts that the costs of smoking are actually lower because people die at a younger age. That smokers die at a younger age demonstrates, if anything, that smoking is a "choice deserving of less deference.

First of all, this ignores the cost of a shorter life. I am not sure how one goes about assigning a monetary value on years of life (I don't necessarily think this is a sensible thing to do) but certainly this is a factor that weighs heavily in favor of smoking bans.

Second, the whole idea that people "choose" to live shorter lives is utter nonsense. People will always talk about so-and-so who lived to age 90 and smoked like a pipe. People just are not always too rational about things.

Most people don't look at actuarial tables when choosing to take up smoking. And even if they did, most would be in denial that this will apply to them. They are more likely too irrationally think they will be just like so-and-so who lived to age 90.

Third, once you are addicted to cigarettes, it is not fully a "choice" anymore whether to smoke them. Yes, some people are successful in quitting. But it takes a tremendous amount of will power and it is a truly uphill battle for many people to quit. I have seen people quit again, only to keep on falling into the same habit as soon as some stressful event enters their lives.

What this comes down to is that we as society should not give as much deference to the "choice" (really, the addicted compulsion) to smoke. We should tax cigarettes more heavily. And it is just fine to ban smoking in all sorts of public areas.
12.4.2008 1:50pm
cbyler (mail):

Presumably, that's not true at all, since smokers aren't generally keeling over in their 30s, but later in life, after they've stopped paying into the system.

Presumably, you're still understating the complexity of the situation, because smokers can "keel over" at any age, and the dividing line between productive and nonproductive years depends on the presence of chronic health problems, including the ones caused by smoking.

At this point anyone saying that the net effect is obviously one way or the other needs to shut up and come back with data.


@Sarcastro: Yes, if you don't support either; allowing smokers to go to smoking bars and nonsmokers to go to nonsmoking bars is pretty nearly equivalent to "Don't like abortion? Don't have one."

If you support one and not the other, the analogy might make you uncomfortable, though.
12.4.2008 1:50pm
Cornellian (mail):
I don't care if people smoke in bars and restaurants, I just want an easy way to determine in advance which ones do, so I can avoid the eye-watering stench. To a non-smoker, it's disgusting.
12.4.2008 1:51pm
Hume:
A bar is not a "public place."
12.4.2008 1:53pm
David Welker (www):

Generally speaking, the stated reason for smoking bans is not to protect consumers, who have a choice about where they dine, but to protect workers, who have less of a choice.


This doesn't make any sense to me. If nonsmoker consumers live longer lives and get lung cancer less often, that is surely a benefit that matters. Any sort of algorithm that denies this is a benefit is a little ridiculous.

The idea that consumers always have total control over where they end up also ignores social dynamics. But, even if they do make this choice, there is nothing wrong with making it easier to make better choices.

Seriously, what nonsmoker would "choose" to go into a smoke filled bar over an identical non-smoke filled bar? Probably not too many. Why do they go anyway? I say social dynamics. It would be nice if doing the right thing (i.e. staying away from second-hand smoke) had lower social costs. And it does, just as soon as your ban smoking in bars and restaurants.
12.4.2008 2:01pm
Chaymus (mail):
I recall reading a study on the MN bar scene that stated while the income of existing Bar's hasn't changed much, over 100 bars within a year of the ban's enactment closed down. (prior to our current economic state, it's much higher now)

Additionally, while popular opinion loves to say second hand smoking as a hazard I encourage them to understand which study they are using their basis on, and to look up Judge Osteen's ruling on the EPA's study of ETS (Osteen ruled against big tobacco historically too). It's one thing to say it's harmful because of valid scientific study, it's not ok to condem it with bad science.

I am a smoker. I dislike the ban greatly, but do not smoke in my own home, though my car wreaks ;). I would have prefered an establishment-based choice through licensing/other. In terms of smoking I have nearly doubled the amount I smoke since the ban has been in effect, and find that I actually smoke more when I am at a bar than before.

When it comes to healthcare many states are using sin-tax on packs of cigarrettes to fund state health/services. Particularly in the state of Minnesota when the promise of "No new taxes" could not be held it was a smoking tax increase that shielded popular opinion. If there were less smokers, taxes would have to compensate.

Most anti-tobacco campaigning aren't required to be accurate about their claims or to even cite their sources, but love to argue when big-tobacco isn't. Personally, I feel it's not ok to govern without further proof.
12.4.2008 2:03pm
David Welker (www):

A bar is not a "public place."


A bar is not a private residence either. A bar is a place of public accommodation. You cannot refuse to serve someone because of race.
12.4.2008 2:04pm
Alexia:

All I care about is that I can go to any bar or restaurant when I'm home in Ohio and not leave smelling like smoke.


I can go to any bar I choose that doesn't allow smoking and accomplish the same thing without infringing on the property rights of the establishment's owner.

Michigan doesn't have a smoking law yet, but the zealots won't stop until they manage to pass one.
12.4.2008 2:07pm
gattsuru (mail) (www):
Are smoking restrictions in public places really so incompatible with libertarianism? I mean if you accept that second hand smoke is harmful, then smokers in bars, etc., are committing acts of violence on those around them. Isn't that one of the few times the state is supposed to step in?


Only if you believe libertarianism would demand the prohibition of boxing or soccer. I'm not a libertarian, but my understanding of the matter is that libertarians believe that you should be allowed to consent to things. Willingly and of your own power entering a room where you understand something with a known value of harm is means that you consented to exposure to that value of harm.

It's not like there's a lack of non-smoking services before such an act.

For those who really want to be tweaked by the Ohio statistics, remember that people who work in those banned areas are more likely to smoke than the average portion of the populace (between one in four and one in three, depending on what statistics you use). Despite working in a location where they can not smoke indoors, they still overwhelmingly tend to stick with the habit.

Fun stuff.
12.4.2008 2:08pm
Brian Mac:

A bar is not a "public place."

And I guess a pub isn't a public house either, right?
12.4.2008 2:09pm
David Welker (www):

without infringing on the property rights of the establishment's owner


Does the fire code, which limits the number of people who can freely consent to enter a bar, also violate the property rights of an owner?

Answer: No. Because the property rights of an owner do not include using the property to break the law.

Second point: Human life is something that some people think is as important as property rights. If a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants reduces the incidence of lung cancer among smokers and non-smokers, that surely weighs heavily in favor.
12.4.2008 2:14pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
David Welker,

If smoking once you have the habit is essentially involuntary, what's the point of taxing tobacco heavily, apart of course from the handy revenue stream? Jacking up the price of a product whose consumers are disproportionately poor and who are physically addicted to it seems to me like an unusually cruel sort of regressive tax.
12.4.2008 2:14pm
David Welker (www):
Brian Mac,

What is a public house?
12.4.2008 2:14pm
Brian K (mail):
I would be more interested ...:
in seeing the statistics of bars'/restaraunts' profits decreasing since the ban was passed.


why should you presume that profits necessarily decrease? after the chicago smoking ban went into effect, there were many articles in local chicago papers on how more people went to bars and restaurants. seems that the smoking ban allowed people who weren't going to bars because of the smoke to actually go to bars. smokers still went because they could just go outside and smoke. anyone actually interested in reality rather than inane ideological arguments can easily find these aticles online.
12.4.2008 2:18pm
Brian Mac:

I'm not a libertarian, but my understanding of the matter is that libertarians believe that you should be allowed to consent to things. Willingly and of your own power entering a room where you understand something with a known value of harm is means that you consented to exposure to that value of harm.

I get that angle, and see that it's logically consistent. But the problem is that large majorities of people don't know the harm associated with SHS.
12.4.2008 2:19pm
David Welker (www):
Michelle Dulak Thomson,

Smoking is not entirely involuntary. Especially with respect to whether one smokes a cigarette right now, or five minutes from now. However, it is not a truly freely made choice either. I have seen people vow to quit. Try to quit. Start smoking again. Vow to quit. Try to quit. Start smoking again. I have seen this pattern too much to think it is something that is completely under their control.

Smoking is an addiction.

However, if you tax it, it becomes less affordable. That is one way to try to increase people's will power. Even if they do not quit, maybe they will decrease from a 1 pack a day habit to half a pack a day.
12.4.2008 2:19pm
Brian K (mail):
If smoking once you have the habit is essentially involuntary, what's the point of taxing tobacco heavily, apart of course from the handy revenue stream? Jacking up the price of a product whose consumers are disproportionately poor and who are physically addicted to it seems to me like an unusually cruel sort of regressive tax.

it increases the incentive to quit at the margin for those inclined to do so and it will make it more expensive to start smoking in the first place. teenagers often do not have that much money.
12.4.2008 2:21pm
Brian Mac:

Brian Mac,

What is a public house?


It's the origins of the word "pub."
12.4.2008 2:21pm
Hume:
Does the fire code, which limits the number of people who can freely consent to enter a bar, also violate the property rights of an owner?

Answer: No. Because the property rights of an owner do not include using the property to break the law.


You are begging the question. In this scenario, we are trying to determine if law X violates property right Y. In making your argument, you assume that the very existence of law X negates the possibility of a violation of property right Y. This is a logical fallacy.
12.4.2008 2:25pm
Brian Mac:

Willingly and of your own power entering a room where you understand something with a known value of harm is means that you consented to exposure to that value of harm.

Also, by this logic, the act of walking home alone on a dark night implies a consent to being exposed to the possibility of rape, robbery, assault, and so on. But I don't think that the libertarian platform calls for those crimes to be taken off the books.
12.4.2008 2:37pm
Hume:

Also, by this logic, the act of walking home alone on a dark night implies a consent to being exposed to the possibility of rape, robbery, assault, and so on. But I don't think that the libertarian platform calls for those crimes to be taken off the books.


This is a bad analogy. If the person walking home decided to walk onto privately-owned property that had a sign saying "you will be forced to have sex with a stranger if you trespass," then there is an argument for implied consent. Similarly, if one walks into a privately-owned area knowing that others will be smoking, then there is an implied consent to this harm.

By your logic, it is permissible to prohibit individuals from smoking in their homes because guests will be harmed by such second-hand smoke.
12.4.2008 2:49pm
Hume:
Note: the argument for implied consent in the rape scenario is extremely weak. I was only trying to provide a better analogy.
12.4.2008 2:50pm
Fub:
Brian Mac wrote at 12.4.2008 2:19pm:
But the problem is that large majorities of people don't know the harm associated with SHS.
Or perhaps some people think that those harms are bogus or misleading claims that rely on junk science.
12.4.2008 2:59pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
David Welker, Brian K,

Tobacco taxes are tricky, aren't they? You want to set them low enough that they don't spawn a huge black market, and yet high enough to hurt — bearing in mind all the while that by "hurt" you don't mean "hurt," more "encourage," because the buyers are victims of their addiction. Also, despite all the fun things you might be able to do with the revenue, you have to keep it firmly in mind that the ideal tobacco-tax revenue is zero. You don't want anyone to buy this stuff, do you?

Considering the number of people addicted to far more expensive (and illegal!) substances, I don't think that cost is going to add much more "will power" than fear of lingering, gruesome, painful death already supplies.

Brian, the large majority of teenagers cannot buy cigarettes legally. And the price of a single pack isn't prohibitive, anyway; it's buying them daily once hooked that's expensive. I doubt that anyone takes up smoking with the idea that s/he won't be able to stop, or calculates in advance of the habit what three packs a day for life will run.

(For what it's worth, I don't smoke and never have; neither do my family or most of my friends, though my dad used to enjoy a pipe occasionally. I'm viewing this whole thing from the outside.)
12.4.2008 2:59pm
Brian Mac:

This is a bad analogy. If the person walking home decided to walk onto privately-owned property that had a sign saying "you will be forced to have sex with a stranger if you trespass," then there is an argument for implied consent. Similarly, if one walks into a privately-owned area knowing that others will be smoking, then there is an implied consent to this harm.

From what I see, you've made two points there.

The first is the public/private distinction. This does somewhat undercut my point, although in my mind bars are quasi-public places.

Your second point was that entering a bar carries with it a consent to experiencing a known harm, whereas walking home on a dark night only carries a consent to a risk of harm. But that distinction is false: the link between exposure to second hand smoke and harm is stochastic, as is the link between walking alone on a dark night and getting raped.


By your logic, it is permissible to prohibit individuals from smoking in their homes because guests will be harmed by such second-hand smoke.

Not necessarily - the balancing act between private liberties and the public good is obviously pretty different in that case. It's his house after all, not a public house.
12.4.2008 3:03pm
Floridan:
Sarcastro : "Can we make a parallel between laws banning smoking and those banning abortion?"

I'm confused . . . aren't abortions already prohibited in bars and restaurants?
12.4.2008 3:08pm
David Welker (www):

Considering the number of people addicted to far more expensive (and illegal!) substances, I don't think that cost is going to add much more "will power" than fear of lingering, gruesome, painful death already supplies.


I disagree. You have to understand how people are irrational.

Smoking provides short-term benefits. The real costs (other than the cost of the cigarettes themselves) do not manifest themselves, if at all, except in the long-term.

People are in denial about the long-term. They think they will be like their uncle Joe, who smoked like a chimney and lived until he was 90. They don't look at actuarial tables. They don't think they are just like everyone else.

Increasing taxes will add some short-term costs to smoking. Something that can be felt immediately. It will thus contribute to people making better decisions about smoking. But, it certainly is no silver bullet.


I doubt that anyone takes up smoking with the idea that s/he won't be able to stop, or calculates in advance of the habit what three packs a day for life will run.


Exactly. And this is one the problems that increasing taxes on cigarettes seeks to partially address. I will concede that it isn't a perfect solution. But it is better than nothing.
12.4.2008 3:10pm
Portland (mail):

If smoking once you have the habit is essentially involuntary, what's the point of taxing tobacco heavily, apart of course from the handy revenue stream? Jacking up the price of a product whose consumers are disproportionately poor and who are physically addicted to it seems to me like an unusually cruel sort of regressive tax.



Raising the price of a pack of cigarettes has been shown to decrease the number of people taking up the habit. Greater expense raises the "barrier to entry" for a smoking habit:


Several studies have examined the effects of state cigarette tax increases on youth substance use over the 1990s, with most -- but not all -- finding that higher taxes reduce youth consumption of tobacco. We advance the literature by using data from the 1991-2005 waves of the national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys (YRBS), providing information on over 100,000 high school age youths. We also are the first to make use of hundreds of independently fielded state and local versions of the YRBS, reflecting data from over 750,000 youths. Importantly, these data are to our knowledge the only sources of relevant information on youth smoking that were explicitly designed to be representative of the sampled state or locality. We estimate two-way fixed effects models of the effect of state cigarette taxes on youth smoking, controlling for survey demographics and area and year fixed effects. Our most consistent finding is that -- contrary to some recent research -- the large state tobacco tax increases of the past 15 years were associated with significant reductions in smoking participation and frequent smoking by youths.



http://www.nber.org/papers/w13046
12.4.2008 3:11pm
Brian Mac:

Or perhaps some people think that those harms are bogus or misleading claims that rely on junk science.

The tobaccco industry pretty succesfully peddled that line when the debate was over first hand smoking. Sadly for them, the vast majority of peer reviewed studies (which admittedly doesn't include those published on the fox news website) find that SHS is a significant risk factor for lung cancer in non-smokers (increasing it by around 20-30% over the baseline risk).
12.4.2008 3:20pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
David Welker,

We're talking about a country in which there are masses of people addicted to substances banned by law and quite a bit more expensive than tobacco will ever be short of outright prohibition or a tax sufficient to produce an organized black market. If cost (legal and monetary) were an effective barrier, there'd be no coke or heroin addicts.

I'm just trying to point out the tension in the argument for high tobacco taxes. The more addictive nicotine is, the more insidious the tobacco trade is. But the stronger the addiction, the more clearly a high tax is going to do no more than punish further a bunch of wretched addicts who have no choice but to pay whatever they have to to get the fix. If the tax actually results in lots of people quitting, OTOH, it's evidence that this isn't a consuming addiction, but rather the sort of habit easily broken by a modest financial incentive.
12.4.2008 3:29pm
Random non-smoker:
It was interesting anecdote where I live. We passed a city-wide smoking ban in restaurants and bars. The bar owners were up in arms claiming they'd lose revenue. What actually happened was the opposite: bars and restaurants got MORE patrons and revenues jumped by double digits within months of the ban.

Turns out, families like to eat at restaurants too.

It also turned out that crime rates around bars went down slightly too. Seems that some of the smoking patrons of the bars didn't stay as long and tended to drink a little less. This sounds bad at first for revenue, but actually turn-over went up.

There were some "fringe" bars and restaurants in neighboring locals that did see an increase in traffic from smokers leaving the city, but that was offset by patrons leaving those other locales to come to the smoke-free establishments.

Fact is, this might be one of those instances where regulation does BETTER than the markets.
12.4.2008 3:34pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Portland,

Interesting, thanks! Since one can't get at the paper itself w/o subscription, can you tell me how the authors define "youths"? I mean, does the definition include people who can buy cigarettes legally, people who can't, or some of each?
12.4.2008 3:35pm
pete (mail) (www):

People are in denial about the long-term. They think they will be like their uncle Joe, who smoked like a chimney and lived until he was 90. They don't look at actuarial tables. They don't think they are just like everyone else.


From what I have read most people, including reenager smokers, tend to think smoking is more dangerous than it really is, as in they think it is more likely to give them lung cancer than the average rate for smokers really is. The ones that smoke value the short term pleasure over the long term costs. Here is the abstract from one paper about this by Petter Lundborg and Björn Lindgren.
12.4.2008 3:45pm
Aultimer:

Brian Mac:
Are smoking restrictions in public places really so incompatible with libertarianism?

I mean if you accept that second hand smoke is harmful, then smokers in bars, etc., are committing acts of violence on those around them. Isn't that one of the few times the state is supposed to step in?

Violent criminal acts differ from second hand smoke (and similarly, from the serving of trans-fatty foods to patrons) in that they are serious harms, and private protection would be much more costly on the whole than collective state protection.
12.4.2008 3:45pm
Brian K (mail):
Brian, the large majority of teenagers cannot buy cigarettes legally. And the price of a single pack isn't prohibitive, anyway; it's buying them daily once hooked that's expensive. I doubt that anyone takes up smoking with the idea that s/he won't be able to stop, or calculates in advance of the habit what three packs a day for life will run.

how do you think teenagers get cigarettes? either someone buys them for them or someone gives them to them. either way someone is paying for the cigarettes...either the teen themselves or the 3rd party. both events are less likely as the price of a pack rises. you can't get addicted to something you have no access too. and yes, as the cost of addiction rises, less teens will be able to afford the addiction. this should be common sense when one considers that most teens do not have an unlimited supply of money.

however, people do take into effect the long term opportunity costs when deciding when to quit. hence the second part of my post which you conveniently ignored.
12.4.2008 3:51pm
JosephSlater (mail):
(1) On style, Floridan wins the thread.

(2) On substance, I agree with those arguing that bans on smoking in, say, bars, are in large part a worker safety measure. One of the earliest bans on smoking in places of public accomodation (beyond places with obvious fire hazards) was on airplanes, and the ban was pushed by flight attendants. And indeed, after smoking was banned on most flights, the rates of various types of diseases related to second hand smoke for flight attendants decreased significantly. As noted above, studies have shown similar effects for workers in bars and restaurants.

I understand that some libertarians don't like worker safety laws on principle, but that ship has sailed.
12.4.2008 3:54pm
Brian K (mail):
We're talking about a country in which there are masses of people addicted to substances banned by law and quite a bit more expensive than tobacco will ever be short of outright prohibition or a tax sufficient to produce an organized black market. If cost (legal and monetary) were an effective barrier, there'd be no coke or heroin addicts.

this argument is a nonstarter. how many people smoke cigarettes? how many people shoot up heroin? given that heroin is vastly more addictive, why don't more people use heroin vs. cigarettes? statistics obviously are not your friend.

(cost can also never deter absolutely everyone)
12.4.2008 3:56pm
Hume:
What legitimates the use of violence (or threats of violence) to deter any individual from doing something that is supposedly bad for them? (I say supposedly because "bad" is a normative term and, in the smoking context, includes judgments beyond bodily health (why should long-term bodily health supersede short-term gratification?)).
12.4.2008 4:03pm
Ken Arromdee:
Violent criminal acts differ from second hand smoke (and similarly, from the serving of trans-fatty foods to patrons) in that they are serious harms, and private protection would be much more costly on the whole than collective state protection.

By this reasoning, if there was a subculture of people who thought that the perfect accompaniment to a meal was to slap a random bystander in the face, the government would have no business stopping them. After all, slaps don't cause serious harm. And surely the free market would eventually lead customers to flock to restaurants where the owner forbids slapping other customers--there's really no reason to get the government involved, is there?
12.4.2008 4:05pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
Brian K,

however, people do take into effect the long term opportunity costs when deciding when to quit. hence the second part of my post which you conveniently ignored.

Um, it was the first part of your post, and I didn't ignore it. I said that I doubted that monetary cost would do what the threat of (need I say it again?) lingering, gruesome, painful death would not.

Of course you can't get addicted to something you have no access to. All the same, teenagers do manage to become addicted to things that are (a) a lot more expensive than tobacco; and (b) illegal to possess, period. How on earth does that happen?

I'll grant that it makes sense that higher taxes would reduce the number of kids trying tobacco, though I doubt that the effect is as large as you'd like it to be. (A single pack of cigs is still cheap, even from a teenager's point of view.) Whether that makes an obviously regressive tax on a captive market palatable to you is your call.
12.4.2008 4:09pm
David Welker (www):
Michelle,

Very interesting points.


I'm just trying to point out the tension in the argument for high tobacco taxes. The more addictive nicotine is, the more insidious the tobacco trade is. But the stronger the addiction, the more clearly a high tax is going to do no more than punish further a bunch of wretched addicts who have no choice but to pay whatever they have to to get the fix. If the tax actually results in lots of people quitting, OTOH, it's evidence that this isn't a consuming addiction, but rather the sort of habit easily broken by a modest financial incentive.


One thing is that from my experience (I don't smoke, but I have family members and friends that do) the level of addiction varies a lot from person to person.

I have a friend who smokes only when we go out to a bar or a club and he drinks. He doesn't smoke at other times. I have family members who smoke much more often, especially when they are stressed out about something.

So, I don't think we can proceed with a model that assumes that everyone will respond in an identical way to taxes.

Some people will not change their consumption of cigarettes at all in response to higher taxes. Some people will finally decide to quit. Some people will reduce the number of cigarettes they smoke.

Some people who smoke are quite addicted. Others who smoke are not as strongly attached to smoking (i.e. my friend who only smokes when he drinks).


If cost (legal and monetary) were an effective barrier, there'd be no coke or heroin addicts.


I am not sure what you mean by the phrase "effective barrier." Can a barrier be effective if it merely reduces the consumption of a substance, or must it eliminate it entirely?

My own view is that reducing the amount of smoking that occurs is a good thing and that cigarette taxes are likely to have that effect. I do not think that taxes will entirely eliminate smoking.
12.4.2008 4:19pm
Fidelity (mail) (www):
To those who believe smokers adversely effect universal heathcare, then check the very system most people want to model: the Europeans. Europeans smoke, and smoke more than most Americans, yet as The Economist recently pointed out, America has the highest rate of lung cancer. Perhaps we should make our cigarettes or tobacco less deadly (because unless Americans are genetically inferior, our tobacco is wacko and that's causing the increase in cancer). Regardless though: we can't say smoker's can't get healthcare for the same reasons we can't say over weight people can't get healthcare.

Confusing? Not really. Look at the Europeans, yet again. They live a healthier lifestyle - is that too much to ask for us in America? Surely, that's an easier solution then the government telling me what's safe, and what's not.

Some of the arguments made here borderline fascism, it's scary. It's obvious that many people here haven't been to a bar recently. Any high quality establishment existing in a world of capitalism is going to invest in a systems that all but removes smoke from the air - they call them oscillating fans, they've been moving air around rooms since 1974.

The owners should control smoking or not smoking in the establishment they own. When the ban was passed here in Oregon back in the summer (it goes into effect Jan 1st) it wasn't for the health of the patrons, but the workers.

I have never heard an argument in a persuasive or reasonable manner, on the limiting of the rights of the people.
12.4.2008 4:20pm
MCM (mail):
The second reason is what is scary about the prospect of universal healthcare. Many people believe in aspects of Mill's harm principle. With the socialization of health care costs, however, activities that once were thought of as harmless to others (e.g., smoking, riding a motorcycle without a helmet) are now activities that inflict tangible harm on others (i.e., this activity is dangerous to you health, and when you are injured, my costs go up as well--thus, i am harmed by your act).


This same logic applies to private insurance as well. It also applies if no one has insurance and everyone pays everything out of pocket.
12.4.2008 4:25pm
Smokey:
David Welker:
Smoking is an addiction.

However, if you tax it, it becomes less affordable. That is one way to try to increase people's will power. Even if they do not quit, maybe they will decrease from a 1 pack a day habit to half a pack a day.
That's the Viet Nam rationale: "We had to destroy the village in order to save it."

So let's heavily tax those poor folks in order to save them, right?

If tobacco is so evil, then abolish it completely. But hand-wringers crying fake alligator tears over how they must tax everyone for their own good reveal their own addiction ---> to other people's money.

Brian Mac:
...the problem is that large majorities of people don't know the harm associated with SHS.
Second hand smoke studies have not withstood peer review. The reason is easy to understand.

When humans started living under shelter and discovered fire, indoor smoke was heavy and pervasive. Chimneys were not even invented until the Middle Ages, but people constantly used indoor fires for cooking and warmth. Breathing smoke was a routine, every day occurrence.

It happens that the human body is capable of cleaning smoke particles out of the lungs -- as long as the body's defenses are not overwhelmed, as with a couple of packs a day. Second hand smoke is only a very tiny fraction of what a smoker's lungs get. Lungs can handle second hand smoke.

It's the cigarette smell that gets into clothes and hair that is objectionable to most folks.
12.4.2008 4:28pm
ForWhatItsWorth:
Smokey: "...It's the cigarette smell that gets into clothes and hair that is objectionable to most folks...."

and THAT is why I smoke cigars! :)
12.4.2008 4:34pm
gattsuru (mail) (www):
Brian Mac:
I get that angle, and see that it's logically consistent. But the problem is that large majorities of people don't know the harm associated with SHS.

There are a lot of indefensible libertarian positions, but I honestly don't see that as a good attack on this particular one.

For those unfamiliar with it, secondhand smoke is noted for a foul odor, immediate lung irritation, and altering taste sensations. I think the harm associated with SHS is rather an unavoidable conclusion. Moreover, I'm uncertain libertarians -- or even most other groups -- would be comfortable with a policy that rewards intentional ignorance or punishes the politically unpopular due to another group's ignorance, and

Also, by this logic, the act of walking home alone on a dark night implies a consent to being exposed to the possibility of rape, robbery, assault, and so on. But I don't think that the libertarian platform calls for those crimes to be taken off the books.

Not particularly. Both examples are stochastic, but that just means that there's a certain element of unpredictability involved. That's the case for everything, thank you Heisenberg.

To take one attribute, the actions of a smoker entering a resteraunt are probably not dependent on other individuals in said building. They actually benefit from a lack of non-smokers (service comes faster, food is typically cooked with more care, et all). The smoker's action is not reliant on nor acting toward other individuals. In the case of a rapist, you're talking about an individual whose actions rely almost solely on the injury to another individual; a rapist is not going to benefit from a lack of victims, as a rather definitional thing.

From another viewpoint, we tend to hold that lighting up a cigarette is acceptable in at least some circumstances, while there are very few where sexual assault or rape are considered such.
12.4.2008 4:36pm
Fub:
Brian Mac wrote at 12.4.2008 3:20pm:
...the vast majority of peer reviewed studies (which admittedly doesn't include those published on the fox news website) ...
Of course no such study was published on the Fox News link I provided. Nor did I say one was. The Fox News website published a report of a bogus study by a government funded anti-smoking zealot, which was presented to the American College of Cardiology, then disappeared from circulation when its validity was questioned.
12.4.2008 4:38pm
Brian K (mail):
I said that I doubted that monetary cost would do what the threat of (need I say it again?) lingering, gruesome, painful death would not.

as others above have pointed out, people undervalue long term cost/gains in comparison to short term costs/gains. a lot of medical literature points out that telling a smoker that if he quits he will be able to continue playing basketball with his son without having to stop due to shortness of breath has a much larger impact than telling a smoker to quit because if he doesn't he will die earlier. your repeated responses ignore this rather simple fact.

All the same, teenagers do manage to become addicted to things that are (a) a lot more expensive than tobacco; and (b) illegal to possess, period. How on earth does that happen?

this again completely misses the point. you are making a absolute argument i am making a probabilistic argument. one of our arguments more closely models the real world, and it's not yours. the only way to completely eliminate tobacco addiction would be to make the tobacco plant extinct. otherwise someone somewhere will find a way to become addicted to it.

I'll grant that it makes sense that higher taxes would reduce the number of kids trying tobacco, though I doubt that the effect is as large as you'd like it to be.

how can you make this assumption? can you read my mind? i haven't said how large of an effect i think it has.

(A single pack of cigs is still cheap, even from a teenager's point of view.)

you don't see the difference between smoking a few cigarettes and become addicted for a long term? raising the price of a pack effects the latter, although not necessarily the former.

Whether that makes an obviously regressive tax on a captive market palatable to you is your call.

i see. so you are making arguments from ideology and not rationality. gotcha.
12.4.2008 4:41pm
David Welker (www):
Smokey,

First of all, it probably is not a good idea to have a discussion about cigarette use with someone who calls themselves "Smokey." =)

Second, have you heard of a Pigovian tax? I think that, all things being equal, it is better to raise tax revenue by taxing things that are bad (i.e. smoking), than things that are good (i.e. income from working).

Of course, Pigovian taxes can be criticized on the grounds that they are somewhat regressive. I think we should take that criticism seriously, but I do not think it is a decisive criticism in many cases.

You write:


If tobacco is so evil, then abolish it completely.


This is a silly argument. First, abolishing cigarettes completely might result in an illegal trade that has all sorts of unintended consequences. Second, one need not choose between two extremes. Would I be happy if everyone quit smoking tomorrow? You bet. But, I think the more prudent course might be to take actions to encourage better behavior rather than force it.
12.4.2008 4:43pm
ForWhatItsWorth:
Fidelity: "...it wasn't for the health of the patrons, but the workers. ..."

The funny thing here is that under the same circumstances, the workers were actually complaining about the BAN! Why? They said it was because the smokers were, almost universally, the better tippers.

In establishments that had smoking sections, non-smoking waiters and waitresses would actively attempt to be the server in that location for that very reason.

From my experience, I couldn't disagree with them. I find self-righteous, do-gooders to be pretty cheap when it comes to tipping, while the smokers seemed to tip better than was expected (whenever I happened to be in that section..... didn't care if I was in smoking or non..... second hand smoke arguments are silly). Just an observation...... and by the people that everyone was trying to "save."

Sounds like they didn't want to be saved..... ahhh, but it's for their own good..... right? Smaller paycheck.... but doggone it, no second hand smoke :)
12.4.2008 4:43pm
Brian K (mail):
When humans started living under shelter and discovered fire, indoor smoke was heavy and pervasive. Chimneys were not even invented until the Middle Ages, but people constantly used indoor fires for cooking and warmth. Breathing smoke was a routine, every day occurrence.

as expected from smokey, this is a very poor argument. what was the average lifespan when humans lived in caves? what is the average lifespan now? what is the average age that people are diagnosed with lung cancer?
12.4.2008 4:43pm
Michelle Dulak Thomson (mail):
David Welker,

I, too, think it would be better if fewer people smoked, but I'm not sure that taxing the bejeezus out of the victims of the habit is a fair way to do it.

I do understand what you're saying about those who could quit fairly easily. But there are still those who can't, and who will inevitably be the "rump" supplying all your tobacco-tax revenue once the others have been peeled off. I remain uncomfortable taxing something on the very grounds that it's addictive and people hooked on it can't help continuing to consume it.

Brian K,

What's your position on drug prohibition, if I may ask?

Urgh. Gotta go to work. Pesky evening shift.
12.4.2008 4:44pm
Aleks:
Re: Only the rich will be free in the future. The masses will be controlled and most will like it.

I rather doubt it. The long history of morals legislation, from Augustus' sex laws to medieval sumptuary laws to America's Prohibition fiasco, is that such laws are mainly honored in the breach. People just tend to thumb their noses when they are directed from on high to better their lives.

Re: Better question is why we have Medicaid and Medicare.

Because there's no such thing as unpaid bill (that's as close to an ironclad law as you are likely to find in economics). If people can't pay their healthcare bills then the rest of us will be paying them one way or another.
12.4.2008 4:52pm
Brian K (mail):
What's your position on drug prohibition, if I may ask?

not that it matters, but i'm against it on both theoretical grounds and practical grounds.
12.4.2008 4:52pm
Abdul Abulbul Amir (mail):


I mean if you accept that second hand smoke is harmful


The matter is degree. If second hand smoke at work is less dangerous to your health than your commute to work then a ban for health reasons is BS.

In Minnesota a lot of working class mom and pop beer joints went el foldo after the ban. Doubly safe now, no smoke and no commute.
12.4.2008 4:59pm
ForWhatItsWorth:
Brian K: "....what was the average lifespan when humans lived in caves? what is the average lifespan now? what is the average age that people are diagnosed with lung cancer?...."

Fair questions and you may well be able to answer them to a decent level of accuracy. How many cases of lung cancer do we find in burial sites? This is an extremely easy thing for modern day forensic archeologists to determine as long as the lungs are still present to some degree.

To the best of my knowledge, not many have been found to have suffered from lung ailments, despite their living indoors. Many native american sites would be as smokey described. People back then, despite their exposure to large amounts of smoke on a fairly regular basis, don't seem to have died from that.

Could it be that we are barking up the wrong tree here? One of the Surgeon General's warnings on a pack of cigarettes...... to the smoker..... is concerning carbon monoxide. Ok, that is valid, but YOUR car gives off more CO in 1/8 of a second than a pack of cigarettes does..... Doesn't this beg a question or two? How about the sheer number of carcinogens that are present in car exhaust? You breathe this 24/7....... not just while you are present in a bar. Just some food for thought...... and I don't smoke cigarettes, by the way :)
12.4.2008 5:04pm
Brian K (mail):
This is an extremely easy thing for modern day forensic archeologists to determine as long as the lungs are still present to some degree.

this is a rather big assumption as lungs are tissue and tissue degrades fairly quickly. but your argument also rests on the assumption that lung cancer is present when they die at a relatively young age. it most likely isn't. and if it is, it is likely very small which would be difficult to detect on partially decomposed lungs. same goes for COPD/asthma changes.

People back then, despite their exposure to large amounts of smoke on a fairly regular basis, don't seem to have died from that.

of course not. my point was they typically died at a younger age of other causes than they would have died from smoking complications.

Ok, that is valid, but YOUR car gives off more CO in 1/8 of a second than a pack of cigarettes does..... Doesn't this beg a question or two? How about the sheer number of carcinogens that are present in car exhaust? You breathe this 24/7....... not just while you are present in a bar.

and coal power plants have them all beat. but how many people do you see wrapping their mouth around a cars exhaust pipe to breath? (and yes, the contents of a cars exhausts are regulated to some extent to decrease toxicity).

Just some food for thought
and yet i'm still quite hungry.
12.4.2008 5:24pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
The tobaccco industry pretty succesfully peddled that line when the debate was over first hand smoking. Sadly for them, the vast majority of peer reviewed studies (which admittedly doesn't include those published on the fox news website) find that SHS is a significant risk factor for lung cancer in non-smokers (increasing it by around 20-30% over the baseline risk).
That claim doesn't even make sense; it's designed to sound pseudo-scientific. Do you mean living with a smoker? Do you mean working in an workplace that permits smoking, and where some people actually do? Do you mean eating once a month in a restaurant that allows smoking? How can you talk about risk without even specifying the exposure? The dose makes the poison.
12.4.2008 5:48pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
This doesn't make any sense to me. If nonsmoker consumers live longer lives and get lung cancer less often, that is surely a benefit that matters. Any sort of algorithm that denies this is a benefit is a little ridiculous.
I realize that I'm talking to the same person who think it's somehow respectful of someone's dignity to ignore what they want, so it's therefore a waste to respond, but what the heck.

Any "algorithm" that substitutes your preferences for those of the person involved is a lot ridiculous.

And your paean to life is rather belied by your preference for letting people die rather than allowing organs to be sold.
12.4.2008 5:57pm
Smokey:
My sympathy, BrianK, it seems you didn't understand:
as expected from smokey, this is a very poor argument. what was the average lifespan when humans lived in caves? what is the average lifespan now? what is the average age that people are diagnosed with lung cancer?
You missed the point. Here, I'll help out: natural selection over thousands of generations has equipped people to cope with a smoky environment. And it bears repeating: there are no studies showing that second hand smoke is harmful, which have withstood the peer review process. The bogus SHS 'studies' are still floating around the internet like leaves in a pond, and they'll always be there. But they're still bogus. Claims of SHS being harmful are statistically meaningless.

And yes, David Welker, I thought about the Smokey handle a millisecond after I clicked the Post Comment button. FYI, I picked the name on an impulse when my original choice was already taken. "Smokey" is the name of my wife's big gray tomcat, with ears notched from fighting, but super laid-back around people. Now you know. Got nothing to do with smoking, which I quit in the '70's.
12.4.2008 6:03pm
Dan R. (mail):
Just wanted to point out that smokers and the obese cost less in health care costs over their lifetime than non-smokers.

Citation: van Baal PHM, Polder JJ, de Wit GA, Hoogenveen RT, Feenstra TL, et al. (2008) Lifetime Medical Costs of Obesity: Prevention No Cure for Increasing Health Expenditure. PLoS Med 5(2): e29 doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050029
12.4.2008 6:07pm
Brian K (mail):
Smokey,

given the cr*p you peddled in the global warming posts, you'll have to forgive me if i don't take your word on much of anything.

and yes, i have seen people with lung cancer who have no known risk factors aside from being married to a heavy smoker. i have seen kids with lung changes typically seen only in heavy smokers...not surprisingly both their parents were heavy smokers.
12.4.2008 6:20pm
Smokey:
Is it Brian K, M.D., or Prof. of Statistics Brian K?

I just want to know, to be sure you're not peddling *ahem*... well, you know.

And I'm real sorry that the planet isn't cooperating with the globaloney contingent.
12.4.2008 6:30pm
ForWhatItsWorth:
Brian K: "...and yet i'm still quite hungry...."

Well, I heard you were on a diet(?) :) :)
12.4.2008 6:40pm
Steve:
Is someone seriously arguing that the campfire smoke our ancestors presumably inhaled in a cave is equivalent to cigarette smoke with its hundreds of ingredients and additives?
12.4.2008 7:06pm
Dr. T (mail) (www):
The smoking prevalence results come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The BRFSS is an ongoing telephone survey of a variety of risk factors. Telephone surveys related to health are notoriously inaccurate. Sample sizes are small. Many persons refuse to participate, which greatly biases the results. Some persons who participate lie to the interviewers. The CDC, in its usual slipshod fashion, does not include error limits in the reports. You have to download the raw data and perform the statistics yourself to calculate imprecision.

I believe that the reported 3% increase in smoking prevalence is within the error limits of the data. In other words, there probably is no increase in the percentage of Ohioans who smoke.
12.4.2008 7:30pm
Dr. T (mail) (www):
I'm a pathologist. I hate cigarette smoke because it inflames my sinuses and irritates my eyes. Despite my dislike of cigarettes, I state here that second-hand does not increase the risks of lung disease, lung cancer, or heart disease. None of those claims has ever been proved (though there were many badly designed studies in this field that said otherwise), even for nonsmoking spouses who lived with smokers for decades. The only proven health risk for second-hand smoke is that it irritates the lungs in asthmatics and can trigger an acute need for inhaled medications.

Given the lack of proof that second-hand smoke is dangerous (as opposed to annoying), I see no compelling reason for governments to ban smoking within private businesses such as stores, restaurants, malls, bars, conference centers, etc.
12.4.2008 7:42pm
Brian Mac:

And it bears repeating: there are no studies showing that second hand smoke is harmful, which have withstood the peer review process.

That's just a flat out lie, as anyone who's got access to the scientific literature would know. It gets harder and harder to assume that you're arguing in good faith.
12.5.2008 6:59am
Fub:
Brian Mac wrote at 12.4.2008 3:20pm:
The tobaccco industry pretty succesfully peddled that line when the debate was over first hand smoking. Sadly for them, the vast majority of peer reviewed studies (which admittedly doesn't include those published on the fox news website) find that SHS is a significant risk factor for lung cancer in non-smokers (increasing it by around 20-30% over the baseline risk).
So what? In risk analysis, baseline matters. In fact, risk probability increase of less than 100% percent is often inconsequential, and can be entirely meaningless when considered alongside competing risks.

For example, a friend of mine just decided not to endure months of agonizing chemotherapy following removal of a non-metastatic but malign tumor (unrelated to smoking).

The docs told him that based on currently accepted statistics, without chemotherapy there is a 5% probability that a tumor of the same type will recur within 5-10 years. But he would reduce the risk to 3% by enduring chemotherapy, puking his guts out several times a day, losing muscle tone and hair, and feeling like he's in a centrifuge all day for 6 months.

The untreated risk probability is 1.66 times the treated risk. That's a 66% increase. So, the doc urged him to endure chemo.

My friend said his decision to halt chemotherapy was a no-brainer.
12.5.2008 12:33pm
Mark in Texas (mail):
When I read people zealously advocating smoking bans, I am reminded of this appearance by Michael Crichton.

12.6.2008 12:28pm
Mark in Texas (mail):
Let's try that again since the built in link feature didn't seem to do what I thought it would.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGJrlFH_qTg&feature=related

Crichton Link relevant to smoking bans
12.6.2008 12:30pm
jquizzix (mail):
In all of the internet discussions where I have ever seen this topic discussed, smokers' rights activists always beg the question with the premise that there is no proven health risk from secondhand smoke, followed by the conclusion that there is no reason to pass clean indoor air laws.

The problem is that the premise that is argued (that there is no health risk from secondhand smoke) is as much in need of proving as the conclusion (there is no reason to pass clean indoor air laws). In the arguments posed above, I only saw one attempt to prove the conclusion, i.e., the link to articles by Dave Hitt, Gio Batta Gori, and Steven Milloy.

While health advocates such as myself will rely upon trusted sources of health information (National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control, Mayo Clinic, and many others), we commonly see the opposition's claims "proven" by sources such as Dave Hitt (no expertise, just a guy), Gio Batta Gori (paid tobacco industry consultant), and Steven Milloy (also paid large sums by the tobacco industry).

Or often times, you will simply see the assertion put forth that "there is no health risk from secondhand smoke" without even the support of tobacco industry hacks, because merely asserting that claim often gives them a greater chance of being believed than if they try to offer evidence such as that above.

In any case, scientific explanations left in the hands of smokers' rights advocates are unsightly things indeed.
12.7.2008 5:04pm

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