The Silver Lining of NYC’s Smoking Ban

I sure hope so!

I’m actually buoyed by the BBC Radio report interviewing New Yorkers, a few of whom said that the outdoor ban was hinky (I’m making a circular motion next to my ear.)

The BBC has been an anti-tobacco stalwart, reporting smoking ban after smoking ban with the same smug tone, I imagine, with which they reported Allied victories in the last days WWII. Even the BBC is admitting  that claims  that outdoor secondhand smoke as a significant health threat are now being questioned. (duh!) And some public health people worry that the credibility of other anti-smoking messages might be compromised.

Could this be the high water mark of the anti-smoking extremism?  A high water mark is a lovely thing, a tattoo to how high the water got before it receded. How bad things got before they started to get better. How crazy things had to get before they started to get sane.

FYI – Another over-hyped “danger” that makes the BBC salivate is human sex trafficking. Columbia Journalism Review gave a vaunted “laurel” to the January 11, 2011 report from The Oregonian that showed how public policy was being driven by warped statistics. Sound familiar? (cough)

Anyhow, the NYC outdoor ban stinks (hah!) and I’d like to renew my call to change Big Apple to Big Durian, the odiferous tropical fruit that’s a national symbol of Singapore, another business-friendly Gotham with public policy based on nuttiness.

Here’s my argument

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Sorry, Aussies, for Jumping to Conclusions

I castigated the Australians because of a newspaper headline from an anti-tobacco group that said banning smoking in all apartments Down Under was inevitable.

But I never checked to see whether they were talking, in their charming and peppy accents, about public or private apartments and voluntary or forced bans on smoking.

In the Sensible Smoker’s book, the owners (or tenants group) any public or private apartment building may completely ban smoking indoors and out, for whatever reason. But any public or private apartment building should be allowed to allow smoking, too, for whatever reason.

Like a particular public housing project or half-way house might choose to allow smoking because they have bigger fish to fry. There are some substance treatment programs that relax their no-smoking rules for the same reason.

I’ve never, ever been angry at any individual restaurant or bar that chose to go “smoke-free” and have never denied them my business.

What makes me angry is that no individual restaurant or bar can choose to relax the no-smoking laws, no matter how many people may want them to, for whatever reason.

Why can’t restaurants have a Smokin’ Ribs Tuesday? People who don’t mind smoke in the air as well as in their Baby Backs or Buffalo wings can frequent the place once a week. Those who hate smoking can go any or all of the other six days of the week.

Why are anti-smoking crusaders so afraid of any crack in their armor of Zero Tolerance? Why can’t we have Two Percent Tolerance?

When perfect obedience is required for the magic to work, you might be a character in the Emperor’s New Clothes.

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G’Day Mate, You Shonky Wombat

The shrimp on the barbie folks are looking to become world “leaders” in the restriction of the use of tobacco products.

According to Crocodile Whoever it’s inevitable that smoking will be banned in apartment buildings. The Cancer Council of South Australia says a ban on smoking inside Australian apartments is “entirely possible and even probable”.

Earlier this month an eight-unit apartment block in western Sydney introduced a by-law making the premises, including balconies, completely smoke-free.

The Ashfield block is believed to be the first to impose such a ban, but Professor Brenda Wilson, the chief executive of Cancer Council SA, predicts it will not be the last.

“Expectation is growing that there be no smoke in shared places,” she said.

This from ABC Down Under

Couldn’t they ask smokers to put an exhaust fan in their window and try not to open the door to the hallway with a cigarette in their mouths?  Does a knee jerk overreaction have to be the only response to complaints/fears? Is “a total ban” the only tool in the toolbox?

This report from has a few more details

Anyhow, Aussies were recently rated as the friendliest people in the world. If this is the friendliest the world can be to smokers, maybe we need to redefine “friendly.”

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Cheap Smoke(r)s

The belief that smokers place a heavy financial burden to the health care system that their neighbors have to subsidize has taken a hit.

According to Dutch study, it turns out that people who die sooner (a sad side effect of smoking) cost the system less overall than people who hang on to a ripe old age.

If you look at the health care costs consumed over a lifetime, fat smokers are cheap compared to thin vegetarians. (Well, maybe not vegetarians, they may actually be on to something.)

But you know what I mean.

“It was a small surprise,” said Pieter van Baal, an economist at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands, who led the study. “But it also makes sense. If you live longer, then you cost the health system more.”

In a paper published online Monday in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal, Dutch researchers found that the health costs of thin and healthy people in adulthood are more expensive than those of either fat people or smokers.

Hey, say you saw it in the New York Times!

Now, saving the health care system money is no reason to smoke. But it is a reason to think twice about the fairness of taxing tobacco at rates that would curl smokers’ hair – if they didn’t already shampoo every day so their friends won’t complain about the cigarette smell.

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