Tag Archives: smoking bans

Lawsuit filed over “smoke shacks” built by Great Falls bars, injunctions filed, groups formed, it’s a mess

This is a hell of a convoluted story. It’s too complicated to tell the whole story here, so I’ll sum up … It’s a city/county health department fighting the courts, owner of some Great Falls, Montana bars and a citizens’ group has gotten in the middle of it. It’s all over things called “smoke shacks.”

I only know of one bar locally that has one of these “smoke shacks” (Another one has some shelter in an alley behind the bar, but that’s different).

Under Montana law, bar owners could install a “smoke shack” in their bars. It’s usually a really small room, with a few video gambling machines, completely cut off from the rest of the bar. So, if you really want to smoke inside and play video poker or whatever, you kind of get shut off alone in these little rooms.

The owners of a bunch of casinos built these smoke shacks, but then received notices from the city and county that they were violating the state’s clean air act. The bar owners finally filed suit over it. The city and county health department requested an injunction against the smoking shelters and lost.

According this article, the judge ruled that the health department “took a ‘kaleidoscope of ever-shifting interpretations,’ concerning smoking structures in Cascade County, and that the board failed to adopt a coherent and logical interpretation of the Clean Indoor Air for bars and casinos in Cascade County.”

So… it gets more convoluted, because now a citizens’ group has gotten involved on the side of the city and the county, mad that these bars in Great Falls have found loopholes in the Clean Air act.

One of the strangest parts of this article is an interview with a former smoker/gambler:

Doug Richardson watched the tavern industry change from a gaming machine in the Palace Casino.

He was there before the law, when the law was implemented and today after the smoking shelters were built.

He smoked like any other gambler, until he was diagnosed with emphysema.

Now whenever he’s around smoke, whether it’s someone smoking a cigarette outside or if he’s near a backyard fire pit, his lungs act up and he has to use a rescue inhaler.

“These rooms have at least cured that as far as coming into places where people are smoking outside,” Richardson said. “They should build rooms like this. It takes the smoker away from people and into their own zone.”

Richardson was playing a game at the Palace Casino, adjacent to one of the Palagis’ smoke lounges, and he said on any given day the smoking room is full and there’s not a hint of smoke inside the main facility.

Whoa, the guy is dying of emphysema and he needs an inhaler if he’s around cigarette smoke, but I give him credit for being so tolerant toward smokers.

Anyway, it’s a big honkin legal mess … and headed to court, if not the State Legislature.

Personally, I’m not worked up about it too much, but it’s annoying to me when bars try to find these loopholes and just don’t deal with the fact that smoking bans are the future.

Meet Bill Hannegan, a blast from the past

bill hannegan

Was kind of perusing Tobacco.org the other day and saw an interesting story that there is still a lot of bickering going on about smoking bans in St. Louis. Man, it’s been at least two or three years this has been going on.

I don’t get too worked up over smoking bans anymore because I tend to see it as a dead debate. There’s very few places left where you can smoke in bars or restaurants — mostly the Deep South, and mostly in smaller towns and cities in the South.

Anyway, in St. Louis, the big debate is over whether they should allow exemptions to an existing smoking ban. Missouri is one of the places in the country still fighting smoking bans. The only reason this story even caught my eye is I remember from the old toxic Topix days a Libertarian guy from St. Louis who was vehemently against smoking bans — Bill Hannegan, and I figured, “Oh, I bet ol’ Bill is in the middle of this spat.”

And sure enough, not only is he in the middle of the spat, this newspaper even did a sidebar about Bill. Hah, an article about this guy I remember from Topix five or six years ago, with his photo. So, this is ol’ Bill Hannegan from the Topix days. You still see Bill Hannegan’s name pop up all over the Internet, commenting on stories about smoking bans.

This article calls Bill “perhaps the staunchest defender of smoking rights in the region.” I read that and thought, “Christ, he might be one of the staunchest defender of smoking rights in the whole country, from how often I’ve seen him involved in stories about smoking bans.” It’s nice to see who the person is behind all those hundreds of comments I’ve seen over the years from him.

Bill, as much as I almost never agreed with him, and frankly got offended when he claimed there is no proof secondhand smoke is harmful and he kept comparing smoking bans to Nazism (Sorry, Bill, you cannot with a straight face compare having to go outside to smoke to the murder of 20 million people in the name of ethnic cleansing), usually managed to keep it pretty civil on those boards despite being the target of a lot of personal attacks, unlike this scary-ass Tea Party nut named Conferederate76 or HarleyRider76 (don’t care if I never see that guy again online). You could say Bill is obsessed with smoking bans, but it’s probably kinder to say he is very driven and passionate about it. Like I said, I will probably never agree with him.

(Speaking of Topix, I recommend staying off it. The links are full of malware and the threads downright nasty. There was this epic thread about the smoking ban in Ohio that began way back in November 2006. It got downright vicious, just nasty, threats, etc. It looks like that thread finally petered out in July 2012 after 75,000 comments — most of which came from probably fewer than a couple of dozen commenters.)

Rural Montana bar says smoking ban putting it out of business

turah bar
Here is a big article about a rural bar in Montana that says the state’s smoking ban, implemented 18 months ago, is driving it out of business. The business completely ignored the state’s smoking ban, racked up thousands of dollars in fines, and then finally was forced to start complying. But, now the bar owner says the ban is driving her out of business.

I gotta call bullshit on this, I really do. I am on record as saying I can believe smoking bans hurt certain kinds of bars — sleazy little corner taverns and maybe little country bars, but to completely destroy your revenue. Whenever I hear these horror stories, I really want to say, “I want to see your books.” I suspect that most of the time these bar owners make these doom and gloom pronouncements about smoking bans, they aren’t lying per se, but they are exaggerating.

I also had a bit of a hard-ass attitude that perhaps some bars will be driven out of business by smoking bans — perhaps. But, there’s no one making money anymore making asbestos roof shakes. No one makes money anymore making mercury thermometers. Why? Because they were UNHEALTHY. Economies change. They evolve. They just do. Sometimes people get hurt. Smoky bars are a thing of the past and people just need to accept that. It’s not going to change.

Wisconsin bartenders love Wisconsin smoking ban

A study just released by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee showed that bartenders in that state are having fewer health problems and are more in favour of a smoking ban than before it was first implemented last year.


This study is pretty technical, but if you go to the conclusions, it shows that bartenders report fewer respiratory issues — wheezing or whistling in chest, shortness of breath, cough first thing in the morning, cough during the rest of the day and night, cough up any phlegm, red or irritated eyes, runny nose, nose irritation, or sneezing, and sore or scratchy throat (fuck, I got half these symptoms when a chain smoker moved into a unit beneath me.).

Overall, 72 percent of bartenders were in favour of the smoking ban, compared to 64 percent before the ban was imposed. Among non-smokers, the number jumped from 77 percent to 81 percent.

Get this however, among smokers, support for the smoking ban went up from 46 percent to 60 percent. That means a majority of smoking bartenders … is in favour of the smoking ban. Wicked!

Wisconsin had one of the bloodiest battles in the country a couple of years ago to get a smoking ban. It took several tries to get a bill passed and there was of course a lot of teeth-gnashing from Libertarians and the Wisconsin Tavern Association. From all reports that I have from my sources in Wisconsin, 😉 the law has had nary a negative effect on the state.

Smokefree Wisconsin

Texas smoking ban being attempted again

This has been attempted many times before and so far no dice. Two bills introduced in the Texas State Legislature would impose a statewide smoking ban.

Texas remains the largest state in the union with no statewide smoking ban, however, a ban there has a chance. First of all, Livestrong is based in Austin, and Lance Armstrong is adamantly pro-smoking ban and is not shy about using his influence, and his organization, to lobby for it.

Secondly, most of the major cities in Texas already have smoking bans — Dallas, Houston, Austin, El Paso and Corpus Christi all have smoking bans. San Antonio is the biggest city that doesn’t have a strong smoking ban (they have a very weak one). Fort Worth has a restaurant ban. Myriad other smaller cities also have smoking bans. So, like half the state of Texas already is living under municipal smoking bans. Might as well make it statewide.

But, truth be told, Big Tobacco has a LOT of influence in Texas too. Big Tobacco has been known to spend millions lobbying in Texas. The Houston Chronicle has come out to ask legislators to finally stop caving in to these lobbyists.

So, does this have a chance? Your guess is as good as mine.

“Dammit, Blamtucky, I ain’t reprogramming a VCR”

Sorry, I just think that’s the funniest movie line. Ever.

Kentucky? and Indiana? are considering smoking bans? Well, I suppose I believe it when I see it, but a smoking ban did pass last year in a Republican-dominated Kansas, Virginia and North Carolina in the the last year or two, so anything is possible. I was actually genuinely shocked when Kansas passed a strong smoking ban. Very, very conservative state.

Kentucky and Indiana are obviously both Republican-dominated states, and Republicans are loathe to pass smoking bans, because many conservatives see them as infringing on small businesses (I’m sure all the campaign contributions Big Tobacco consistently shovels toward Republicans have nothing to do with it.). They also happen to have two of the highest smoking rates in the nation. Not coincidentally, they are also two of the 12 states left with absolutely no statewide smoking ban whatsoever. It will be interesting to see how far these bills proceed. After the bloody battles in Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other states recently, I believe the tide has turned on smoking bans. The opposition is crumbling and there are fewer and fewer “black states” on the smoking ban map.

Thirdhand smoke

This is an interesting issue that drives the anti-smoking ban lobby crazy, but trust me, it’s real. You’ve heard of first-hand smoke, right? That’s the smoke the smoker inhales. Second-hand smoke? That’s the smoke hanging in rooms that non-smokers have to breathe.

There is also something called Third-hand smoke. And it’s real. That is the residue left behind in the walls, the carpet, the furniture, but cigarette smoke. And trust me, it stinks. When we had a chain-smoker move downstairs at the condo, the smoke got in the furniture and the carpet. After we got this smokestack to not smoke directly underneath us anymore, you could still smell it in the carpet and furniture. I had to have the carpet cleaned and the upholstery cleaned to get rid of the reek. I did not send him a bill, though I was tempted.

That thirdhand smoke not only stinks, it is genuinely bad for you. Several studies have pointed out, including a new one just came out this week from Israel, states that the residues in thirdhand smoke can cause respiratory problems and more. I can believe it. Before we had the condo cleaned, I felt constant irritation in my throat and nose from the residue, and I could feel those airways starting to clamp up from it. It’s not a joke, it’s real.

The smoke in Spain falls mainly outside the bars

Ay Carumba! Spain has gone completely smokefree.

Spain was one of those European countries that supposedly banned smoking (way back in 2006), but really didn’t. The rules were very lax and even those lax laws were essentially ignored. This has been the case in some other European countries that have “banned” smoking, (such as Italy and Greece), where the smoking rate is still so high and smoking so entrenched in the culture, that it was a hopeless law.

Well, Spain decided to crack down. No more ifs ands or buts. No smoking in bars or restaurants at all in Spain. No smoking on television, and no smoking in hospital parking lots (Reminds me of that Editors song, “Smoking outside the Hospital Doors.”), and playgrounds.

Of course, the ruling SOCIALIST party was behind the new law, and even then it was a close vote in the lower house, passing just 189 to 154.

South Dakota approves smoking ban; the South remains the ashtray of the United States

First on the docket is a month-old story from South Dakota (we gots some catching up to do). In South Dakota, the State Legislature passed a smoking ban a couple of years ago. Bar and casino owners passed around a petition to put the issue to a public vote. That petition went to court and it appeared would be overturned because it came out something like 13 valid signatures short.

Well, the judge wasn’t going to stop the ballot measure over 13 lousy signatures, so he approved the ballot measure, putting the smoking ban on hold for a year. I’m not wild about any tobacco measure being put on the ballot because the industry has a history of defeating measures at the ballot box by pouring millions into state elections (Read: Oregon, California cigarette tax increases).

On Nov. 2 (toldja I’m in catch-up mode), South Dakota voters approved the ballot measure with 64 percent of the vote, one of the widest margins I’ve ever seen. Similar measures in Ohio, Nevada and Arizona all passed with less than 60 percent of the vote. At least one restaurant is already reporting that their business has gone up since the smoking ban went into effect.

So, I haven’t checked this map in a while, but it now appears that 29 states have “strong” smoking bans (bars and restaurants), and 38 states have some form of smoking ban (at least restuarants.)

This map is helpful. Even in those black states, most major cities have smoking bans. The last I checked, San Antonio, Texas, is the biggest city in the country with no smoking ban.

What do those black states mostly have in common? They are all Republican-controlled states. Republicans hate rules and regulations, except of course when it comes to gays and women wanting control over their own bodies.

When I first started blogging about this, probably fewer than a dozen states had smoking bans. How far we’ve come.