Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Smoking Ban, Racist?

Is the Smoking ban proposed by the San Antonio city council racist?  Well, let's take a look at the facts.

According to the Surgeon General's report on health consequences of involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke
it increases the risk of serious respiratory problems in children, such as a greater number and severity of asthma attacks and lower respiratory tract infections, and increases the risk for middle ear infections.
Inhaling secondhand smoke [also] causes lung cancer and coronary heart disease in nonsmoking adults.
According to the National Institutes of Health

Levels of environmental tobacco smoke in bars were found to be approximately 3.9 to 6.1 times higher than in office workplaces and 4.4 to 4.5 times higher than in residences. (Siegel 1993)
So if you work in a bar and you don't smoke, you might as well start because you are in just about as much danger of contracting cancer as a smoker.

But hold on a minute, the Restaurant and bar industry studies say the economic impact  to their establishments would be devastating and cause huge economic losses because smokers would go to bars in other jurisdictions. Now we have to take these studies with a grain of salt because some of them are sponsored by the Tobacco industry, which would definetly suffer economic damage from smoking bans.

But there have been numerous independent studies showing that smoking bans actually have a positive economic impact on bars and restaurants. A government study done in New South Wales, Australia found that
weekly pub attendance rose from 21 per cent of New South Wales adults to 26 per cent since the new regulations were introduced.
According to a review of several studies done by Michael Eriksen ScD at the Institute of Public Health at the University of Georgia and Frank Chaloupka PhD at the Health Policy Center at the University of Illinois Chicago
numerous studies using objective measures of economic activity have been done over the past 10+ years looking at the impact of local, state, or national smoke-free policies on restaurants, bars, and tourism. From small towns such as West Lake Hills, Texas, to large cities like New York, in states as diverse as Arkansas, Oregon, and Texas, the vast majority of studies find that there is no negative economic impact of clean indoor air policies, with many finding that there may be some positive effects on local businesses.
Some studies have even found that smoking bans lower the incidence of teen smoking. According to a study done by Michael Siegel at Boston University
Bans don't make teenagers less likely to try cigarettes, but seem to stop them making it a habit, perhaps due to less contact with smokers or because smoking seems less socially acceptable.
But smokers still feel discrimination.  Acording to a Gallup poll conducted in July 2007
The proportion of smokers who feel unjustly discriminated against because of restrictions on smoking in public places is significantly higher today than six years ago. Over the same period, Gallup has seen an increase in public demand for restrictions on smoking in certain public locales, especially workplaces where a majority of Americans now support a full ban.
In San Antonio local advertising executive and political activist, Lionel Sosa, has called the proposed smoking ban economically discriminatory against hispanics.
"The proposed ordinance is economically discriminatory to members of the Hispanic community," Sosa will tell council, according to a text of his letter obtained by 1200 WOAI news. "When you look at the population of the small area bars, poll halls, and VFW halls that populate our community, you will see the overwhelming majority of those that will see their freedom of choice stripped from them by this ordinance are Hispanic-owned businesses."
Sosa's stance is somewhat mindboggling because he is a board member of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.  But he apparently feels that it is more a matter of free choice.  

I believe in free choice, but what about the free choice of the nonsmoking employee of a bar?

Part of the reason why LULAC and the NAACP oppose the new stricter ban is because it would exempt cigar bars which are seen as catering to the well-to-do, leaving lower income individuals with no place to publically smoke and socialize.  I can sort of see their point, but cigarettes are an extremely expensive habit as well.  According to this article if you pay $5.45 per pack for cigarettes, plus buy a new lighter every month, that's about $2,000 a year, not counting health costs, which are much higher.  If you are interested in finding out what your smoking habit costs you, try this smoking calculator.

So is the stricter smoking ban racist?  I guess it depends on your point of view.  I'm not a smoker and don't particularly appreciate being around smokers, but I don't go to bars very often and don't really know many smokers, so I'm really not exposed to second hand smoke.  But I do feel sorry for the nonsmoking bartenders and waitresses who have to put up with it.  Just remember about 80% of the US public are nonsmokers.

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