Category Archives: Smoking bans

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.

Quick updates on Kentucky, New York smoking ban

Here’s something you don’t see every day. In Newport, Kentucky (a suburb of Cincinnati), a county board overturned a smoking ban that never took effect. The county board had two or three new members voted on it in the November election and they immediately vowed to overturn a decision the previous board had just approved. Weird. You don’t see many local boards overturn local smoking bans. It’s only the second or third one I can remember.

The issue was highly contentious, with six public hearings held on it to packed audiences. More than 140 people spoke.

People care about smoking bans.

New York Times comes out against city’s strict smoking ban
Oh, oh, Jackhole won’t like this! 🙂
The New York City Council extended the city’s already fairly strict smoking ban to parks and beaches, something I honestly will be pretty hard to enforce in a city of 7 million. The New York Times, surprisingly to me, took issue with the extended smoking ban, saying Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council had “overreached.”
The NYT opined:

Instead of smoking on Brighton Beach, what does a smoker do — take a boat out 12 nautical miles into international waters?

Anyway, I’m actually all for beach bans because of the mess cigarette butts make. Park bans are a tougher nut. Like I said, the biggest problem with it is good luck enforcing that ban.

Court shoots down Jackson, Wyoming smoking ban

A state court in Wyoming overturned Teton County (Jackson’s) smoking ban, saying it violated the state constitution. This ban, implemented over a year ago, had been tied up in courts for months.

Essentially, the problem is one of process. The ban was imposed by the Teton County Board of Health, an appointed board. The judge ruled that only an elected entity, such as a city council or county board of commissioners, can impose such a ban according to the state constitution. I don’t know of any other bans around the country that were imposed by an appointed board, rather than an elected one.

So bans in Cheyenne and Laramie remain in place. Apparently, the Teton County board and Jackson council had declined to impose smoking bans, so the board of health took the reins in its teeth.

The county board of health says they will appeal. From a legal standpoint, they might not have that strong of a case.

Smoking bans in New York City, Indiana, Raleigh, Texas

Times Square Billboard

New York City this week banned smoking, well, everywhere.

Smoking is now banned at 1,700 city parks and beaches and in pedestrian plazas like Times Square. Needless to say, this was controversial, and the rhetoric ran hot and heavy over civil liberties, but in the end, the city council passed the ordinance by a vote of 36-12.

Good luck getting 7 million New Yorkers to stamp out their cigarettes in Central Park or Times Square, however. 😆

I know part of where smoking bans on beaches comes from is governments’ frustration with the littering. Whenever beach cleanups are done, the No. 1 item volunteers pick up is tons and tons of cigarette butts. Smokers have no one to blame but themselves, in my opinion, for beach smoking bans. If so many of them weren’t litterbugs, the bans wouldn’t have picked up so much steam.

The Indiana House passed a smoking ban, that was watered down somewhat to exclude bars. Indiana is the only state left north of the Mason-Dixon line that has NO smoking ban whatsoever (Pennsylvania has a weak restaurant ban). Indiana is a very Republican state and Republicans tend to loathe new regulations, but this did pass by a 68-31 vote, and smoking bans aren’t quite as partisan as they used to be. This bill, though it is a watered-down ban, has a real chance to pass this year.

Speaking of Republicans.

This poll, funded by the Robert Wood Foundation, found that 70 percent of people in Texas favour a comprehensive smoking ban, including 67 percent of self-identified Republicans. One thing that bodes well for a smoking ban in Texas is several large cities in that state — Houston, Dallas, Austin, Corpus Christi and El Paso — have comprehensive smoking bans, and gosh, the sky really hasn’t fallen. The Smokefree Texas Coalition is backing a statewide ban; this group includes several national and Texas health organizations, including Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation, which is based in Austin. There are two bills in the Texas Legislature, one sponsored by a Democrat and the other sponsored by a Republican.

Raleigh, North Carolina
Speaking of parks.

The centre of the tobacco world, Raleigh, North Carolina, headquarters to Altria (Philip Morris), just banned smoking in city parks. That’s gotta chap those Altria execs!

Kentucky and Tennessee tobacco growing

Remember I wrote a couple days about about Bowling Green, Kentucky’s, smoking ban? A pair of interesting articles about Kentucky and Tennessee’s relationship with tobacco. Kentucky was 20 years ago the No. 1 tobacco-producing state in the nation. It also has historically been No. 1 or No. 2 in the nation for smoking rates, and it also leads the nation in highest lung cancer rate (76 per 100,000 people each year, versus 52 per 100,000 people in the U.S. as a whole.). In 1990, the tobacco growing industry in Kentucky alone generated $900 million in revenue. By 2009, that figure had dropped to $380 million, less than one-half.

And yet, fewer places in Kentucky are allowing smoking. The two biggest cities — Louisville and Lexington, have banned smoking, and Bowling Green, the third biggest city, joined them last week. Several other cities such as Frankfort and Paducah also ban smoking. I think it’s amazing anywhere in Kentucky bans smoking when tobacco is so entrenched in the state (By comparison, few major cities in Alabama have banned smoking).

In adjacent Tennessee, the bottom has dropped out the cigarette tobacco business, so how have farmers adjusted. Unfortunately, many of them have simply switched to growing chewing tobacco, which is increasing in use (partly because of smoking bans). Instead of switching to corn or wheat, they’re not buying a clue and switching to another deadly, addictive product. That’s a bummer … and disappointing. Acreage in Tennessee and Kentucky devoted to cigarette tobacco has decreased 40 percent in recent years, but acreage devoted to chewing tobacco has increased 22 percent.

C’mon farmers. Plow that shit under. Grow something else. Soybeans. Canola. Dope. Anything. Anything but tobacco.

Bowling Green, heart of tobacco country, going smokefree

Interesting. Last week, Bowling Green, Kentucky, right smack dab in the middle of smoking country went smokefree. Bowling Green is surrounded by tobacco farms. In 1987, tobacco was the No. 1 cash crop in Kentucky. A city surrounded by tobacco farms going smokefree, almost as weird as Virginia (home of RJ Reynolds) and North Carolina (home of Altria) going smokefree.

This story looks at concerns by business owners and the local VFW hall over the new law. But, I love this one quote from an old-timer regular at a Bowling Green bar called the Little Brown Jug. “People will come in,” he said. “This is our home.”

That’s usually what happens. People keep coming in. I know at the diviest of the dive bars in our town, the old-timers still go in to their second home. Their lives haven’t really been affected.

The other funny thing is there is a really aggressive anti-smoking ban zealot who posts all over the Internet (I hadn’t heard anything about this guy for at least 18 months, but then he showed up on some site I posted on a couple of days ago. I then did a quick Google and found out he’s been posting his spam like crazy all over the Internet on any and all smoking ban stories. He’s just obsessed.), who lives near Bowling Green. It’s gotta really chap his hide that the nearest city is smokefree!

Ooops, lawsuit against Nebraska smoking ban didn’t go as planned

Oops. This business owner muffed the punt.

A smoking ban in Nebraska exempted cigar bars, but not pool halls. A pool hall owner filed suit against the state last year and a judge this week ruled that yes, the smoking ban was unconstitutional.

Because it exempted cigar bars. So he struck the part of the bill exempting cigar bars.

I bet cigar bar owners in Nebraska are pretty pissed off right now at the pool hall owner.

Oh, the important thing is, the smoking ban overall was judged to be constitutional.

New study: Wisconsin smoking ban not hurting hospitality industry

A new economic impact study done by the University of Wisconsin looked at the five cities in Wisconsin in light of that state’s year-old smoking ban.

In the five cities — Madison (which had an existing ban), Appleton, Fond du Lac, Marshfield and Eau Claire — the study found an increase in liquor licenses and no drop in employment in the hospitality industry since the ban went into effect. In fact, since the ban went into effect, beer sales in Madison went UP 3 percent, while nationwide, they went down 2-4 percent because of the recession.

What it found is that the number of bars and taverns has decreased slightly since 2004, while full-service restaurants have increased. Employment in bars and taverns decreased slightly, while employment overall has held steady. This may or may not have anything to do with the smoking ban. Meanwhile, this is all while the economy in Wisconsin went into a sharp decline. Quoting the study:

Despite the significant economic recession of 2008, the study found the hospitality industry to be the most economically successful industry in the smoke-free cities.

This kind of confirms something I’ve suspected for some time. Some places might get hurt by smoking bans — small mom and pop taverns that don’t serve food — i.e., neighbourhood bars full of old, reliable customers (also known as dives), while overall the hospitality industry either remains unchanged or actually improves because overall more people decide to go out who otherwise wouldn’t .. because they hate smoke. I will argue until I’m blue in the face, yeah, maybe some people in the short term might lose jobs in these mom and pop taverns, but in the long run, it’s the right thing. And in the long run, is society really worse off by having fewer smoky small dives? I mean, if you’ve ever spent much time in these places, most of them are pretty depressing. They’re like strip mall casinos.

I asked my brother who lives in Wisconsin what the reaction of the state is. He kind of shrugged his shoulders and said, “no one really notices. No one cares.” Confirms my suspicions. Some bar owners rail against bans and a handful of Libertarians and smokers’ rights folks make a fuss, but 90-95 percent JUST LEARN TO LIVE WITH IT!!

Anyway, this study is very similar to literally hundreds of other economic impact studies done, but it won’t quiet the critics. No number of studies will. It’s like global warming deniers. I can hear the chorus of “lies, all lies” at the Smokers’ Club website as I type.

Here is the direct link to the study.

“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.