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Monday, May 7th 2007

No More Hacking Away At The Bar

Second Hand Smoke Kills

When we cracked our cadaver’s chest, prying back the ribs on the right side was horrific. The carcinoma had invaded the chest wall. If I had ever smoked before then, I certainly never would’ve after that first day of the chest dissection.

In a previous post I questioned my own support for a statewide public smoking ban. Several cities in Texas, including my home town, already have such bans. I have to be honest, I’m wavering on what little support I originally gave the bill. The bill that just made it out of the House has significant ‘exemptions’ in it.

[The bill that passed has] an amendment that allows property owners — not always the bar or restaurant operator — to decide if smoking will be allowed. The owner would have to post a sign in a conspicuous place noting that smoking is permitted.

The bill includes other exemptions for bingo and VFW halls and bars that offer their employees health insurance. Cities could also opt out if local voters can get the issue on the May 2008 ballot.

If the bill has to exist, I’m glad it has these provisions in it.

Paternalism is really one of the chief obstacles to liberty. Without a doubt. And this is “we know what is best for you,” at its worst. Clearly the issue of second hand smoke isn’t terribly important to patrons and consumers or private businesses would’ve acted to make an anti-smoking law redundant already.

When anti-smoking campaigners are faced with that argument the answer is always the same, it is to cite the workers’ health,

Myra Crownover, the Lake Dallas Republican pushing the measure, said the ban is needed to protect workers and other people regularly exposed to secondhand smoke.

This seems dangerous. Really consider the logic behind the argument, taking into account what it is responding to. This goes beyond labeling employment as a right (something I don’t agree with); it goes so far as to deny employees have a choice. “Someone needs to step in to protect you, because you have to work in this specific place in order to make living. You can’t go find a smoke free job, you have to work here.”

Anything short of that fails to counter the anti-paternalistic argument constantly leveled at these types of bans.

First and foremost, that is a ridiculous argument. But going beyond the realm of the pragmatic, and looking at the logic you have to be a little scared – what sort of authority does that argument admit employers have over employees? Nearly absolute? I mean you’re on the verge of denying an employee’s service is “at will.” They can’t quite; they have no choice but to work around the second hand smoke.

This may all be for naught, the session is coming to a close and as Off The Kuff points out the Senate version of the bill is still in committee and may never get a floor vote.