Category Archives: Smoking bans

Indiana smoking ban appears dead because it had too many exemptions

This is a new one to me. A proposed smoking ban in Indiana died in a State Senate Committee because it contained too many exemptions.

The extremely weak ban, which would have exempted bars, casinos and private clubs, would have only applied to restaurants. It passed in the State House of Representatives several weeks ago. The Senate Public Policy Committee rejected the ban by an 8-1 vote, saying “we need to go back to the drawing board.”

The American Cancer Society opposed the bill, saying it was too weak.

Indiana remains the only state east of the Mississippi and north of the Mason-Dixon Line with no smoking ban, though Pennsylvania’s is very weak.

Springfield, Mo., approves smoking ban

springfieldVoters in Springfield, Mo., on Tuesday approved a citywide smoking ban by a vote of 53-47, following the lead of voters in nearby Kansas City. This is interesting because Missouri has been one of the most strident anti-smoking ban states in the country. (In fact, Missouri has the lowest state cigarette taxes in the nation, too, at a paltry 17 cents a pack.) A statewide ban there has absolutely no traction, but several cities, including Columbia, Independence and St. Louis, have varying types of citywide bans. Jefferson City earlier this year also passed by a city smoking ban by a vote of 58-42 percent. I think St. Charles is probably the only major city in Missouri that still allows smoking in bars and restaurants.

Meanwhile, a similar smoking ban measure in Cape Girardeau, failed by 325 votes.

Ohio Supreme Court will decide smoking ban

ohio_s1A statewide smoking ban in Ohio, which has been highly contentious from Day One, is headed to the Ohio Supreme Court. An appeal of lower court ruling upholding the law, was accepted by the Supreme Court. That means they will hear the case and make a ruling. No date has been set yet for a Supreme Court ruling.

A Supreme Court has yet to overturn a state smoking ban, though several other statewide bans have made it to their state’s Supreme Courts. A bar in Columbus that has been fined a total of $30,000 for ignoring the law is the plaintiff in the case.

However, this case could be moot. The governor, a Republican (natch) is proposing cutting 83 percent of the funding for the state’s smoking ban enforcement division within the Department of Health (Not sure why the county health departments don’t enforce it like most states.).

Some of the most strident opposition to smoking bans seems to come out of Ohio. While smoking bans in most states were implemented without much fuss or muss, it has remained heated among a minority of smokers there since the law went into effect in 2006 — FIVE YEARS AGO.

On Topix, the “Ohio approves smoking ban” thread is STILL ACTIVE after nearly five years and has generated more than 70,000 comments in five years. That’s about 40 comments a day, every day, for the past five years. Most threads only last 2 to 4 weeks then run out of gas. I think it’s the same 10 people congregating there every day to call each other names. Some of these threads get incredibly ugly.

Illinois watering down its smoking ban?

Casino-Smoking
Illinois may be the first state to water down its statewide smoking ban.

Because some bars and especially casinos have seen a huge dropoff in revenues since Illinois imposed its smoking ban in 2008. Casinos reportedly are down 28 percent. A State Legislative panel concluded that the smoking ban has been the biggest reason (I gotta believe the overall economic downturn is a pretty big damn factor, too.).

The Illinois State House passed a bill yesterday to lift the smoking ban on casinos. Another bill in the Illinois Legislature would weaken the smoking ban in bars (It would allow bars to get a smoking exemption licence.), while ironically, Illinois is also considering a bill to raise its cigarette tax another 50 cents a pack (from $.98 a pack to $1.48 a pack — man that would drill Chicago. Chicago has a high city cigarette tax, making it one of the most expensive cities in the country already for cigarettes — about $7 to $8 a pack.)

If the Senate passes the casino exemption and it’s signed into law, Illinois would become the first state in the country weaken its smoking ban.

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.

WI_NoSmoke_NAV_300

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

CNBC’s Cigarette Wars — “It’s still a legal product”

cigarette wars What I was struck by in the CNBC documentary “Cigarette Wars” was how a pair of tobacco farmers, when asked, “how do you feel about growing a deadly product?” just kept repeating the mantra, “it’s still a legal product.”

“Not everyone dies from smoking,” Tobacco farmer Todd Clark says, then quickly adds for properity’s sake: “although there’s nothing positive about smoking in any way shape or form.” You could see in their eyes (well, not in this one clip because the guy is wearing shades), that they didn’t really buy their own mantra. You could see in their eyes this is what they told themselves every night … so they could sleep.

I wrote down at least six times two tobacco farmers told CNBC, “it’s still a legal product.” Six times. Cigarette Wars is an hour-long documentary that looks at the growing of tobacco, smoking bans, cigarette marketing, smoking in Hollywood, cigarette smuggling and cigarette exports. It interviews smoking ban proponents, tobacco farmers and ad execs (but no one from the tobacco industry would speak on camera … acting like the legalized Mafia they are.) I was struck most by two things … the tobacco farmers and Stanton Glantz calling Hollywood directors who insert smoking into their movies “stupid and corrupt.” (Hear that James Cameron? Stanton Glantz just called you stupid and corrupt.).

Here’s why farmers still grow tobacco, knowing full well it’s a deadly product, knowing full well that the only way they’ll be able to sleep at night is telling themselves “it’s still a legal product.” Because it makes a lot of money. According to tobacco farmer Todd Clark, who seemed like a nice enough guy, tobacco can make bring in $1,500 an acre, versus only $300 an acre for corn or other products. So, if you have a 1,000-acre farm … $1,500 an acre is a lot of money to turn away. How does Todd Clark sleep at night? “I don’t think about the end result,” he told CNBC. He admits he has to emotionally separate himself from the damage his cash crop causes to society. (More on him later.).

The documentary then moves on smoking bans. One of the biggest proponents of smoking bans in the country is anti-smoking zealot Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York. His response to smoking bans putting farmers out of business? “There are very few growers out there … and a lot of America kids.” The documentary talked about cigarette smuggling … a bigger enterprise than I realized. One of the problems with state setting up their own cigarette taxes is the tax rate vary wildly from state to state. The taxes can be as low as 30 cents a pack in Virginia to $4.35 a pack in New York. So, it’s a lucrative business to buy up a shitload of cigarette cartons in Virginia, mark them up by $2 a pack and sell them in New York. Some of these schemes have helped fund the IRA and Hezbelloh.

I also enjoyed the segment on cigarettes and Hollywood as this is a personal fascination of mine. Tobacco companies paid movie studios millions of dollars between the 1970s and 1998, but as part of the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, the companies are prohibited from paying for cigarette product placement in films. Yet, from 1998 to 2008, smoking scenes in movies actually went up. Why? Stupidity, said Stanton Glantz. Glantz is a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and has been on the frontlines of the fight against Big Tobacco for at least 30 years. He, and many others, are advocates for including an automatic R rating for inserting smoking scenes in movies. (I was dubious about this idea for a long time, but Hollywood has shown such an abject intransigence toward doing the right thing, that I now embrace the idea.) “Because directors are either stupid or corrupt,” Glantz said. The documentary specifically picks on James Cameron and “Avatar,” which had a completely gratuitous and pointless smoking scene with Sigourney Weaver (and it was a family film rated PG-13).

Glantz points out directors are just plain stupid to give a multi-billion dollar industry free advertising with getting a cent in return. One 21-year-old college student and heavy smoker pointed out that Hollywood taught him as a kid that “smoking is just badass.” There followed a montage of Hollywood stars smoking, including Irish douchebag Colin Farrell. 🙂 Stupid Irish idiot smoking The “Truth” anti-smoking campaign is next featured. I love this campaign, though it threatens to die from lack of funding every year, because it doesn’t try to tell kids smoking is bad for them. A “Truth” spokeperson acknowledges that often the best way to get kids to do something is to tell them it’s bad for them. “Our goal to to disrupt their (Big Tobacco’s) business model.” Instead, “Truth” focuses on trying to get through to kids that corporations are manipulating them and turning them into their slaves (though nicotine addiction). Truth has been a wildly successful program despite their tiny budget. Even though they can no longer advertise on TV or radio, tobacco companies still spend more on marketing every day than Truth spends in an entire year.

The documentary moves on to global tobacco use. We can fight the tobacco industry all we want, but they are simply going to export their epidemic overseas. While the smoking rate in the U.S. is less than half of what it was 50 years ago, smoking is thriving and even on the increase in Eastern Europe, Russia and China. They are 320 million smokers in China, compared to 55 million in America. That’s a big tempting market for American tobacco companies (they mostly smoke Asian tobacco still in China, but believe me, Big Tobacco is trying to horn in … and China is aware of it, too. They aren’t stupid.)

I did like how the documentary ended. There seems to be hope for tobacco farmer Todd Clark. He’s diversified his farm into other products, such as cattle, chickens, other crops, because tobacco appears to be on the decline. He admitted that the “reality has sunken in more than it ever has before” that the days of American tobacco are on the wane, and that Clark is putting more energy into “having to do other things (grow other crops.).” “I’m excited about those other things,” Clark said.

 

Federal grant money to be used to lobby for tougher St. Louis smoking ban

This is interesting, and I’ve never heard of anything quite like this before. Health officials in St. Louis County, Missouri, are using $2 million in federal stimulus dollars to implement a public relations campaign to lobby the county council to impose a more strict smoking ban in the county.

It’s a county agency contacting with a PR firm, using federal money, to lobby its own county council.

That’s gotta drive libertarians insane. And it’s a lot of money — $2 million. I guess I wouldn’t find it so weird if it were a lot smaller dollar amount. What are they really going to spend $2 million on?

St. Louis County currently has a restaurant smoking ban, with exemptions for standalone bars and casinos. The county health agency will lobby for a comprehensive ban.

I see my old friend Bill Hannegan quoted in this story. He is a noted (and very busy) activist from the St. Louis area against smoking bans — one of the sane ones, though I rarely come remotely close to agreeing with him. I grudgingly have to agree with him on this one, though, this is really kind of an odd story.

Tobacco lobbyists staying busy in Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, they are considering a bill that would allow cities to pass local ordinances banning smoking in bars or restaurants. Right now, Oklahoma has no smoking ban, and local ordinances are not allowed by state law. It also has one of the highest smoking rates in the nation.

Big Tobacco doesn’t have many strongholds left, but Oklahoma is one of them. Big Tobacco is employing a whopping 13 lobbyists in Oklahoma alone to lobby against this one bill, up from nine last year. That’s how much smoking bans freak out Big Tobacco now (because smoking bans do lead to lower smoking rate). I figure 13 lobbyists at $100,000 a pop — that’s $1.3 million they’re spending in Oklahoma alone just to fight a bill that’s relatively weak. Oklahoma may have the weakest smoking control laws of any state.

The bill is expected to be voted on later this month.

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.