SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Smoke, Lies, and the Nanny State
By Ardath Piston


July 13, 2007
Friday PM

Following is an exerpt from Joe Jackson's essay, Smoke, Lies, and the Nanny State. To read his complete writing go to

Ardath Piston
Ketchikan, AK

Received July 13, 2007 - Published July 13, 2007

About: "15 year resident of Ketchikan. A supporter of business owners NOT government making the choice on whether their establishment will allow smoking."


THE NAKED BAR By Joe Jackson

At this writing, smoking bans are a political fad, spreading across North America and, increasingly, Europe. Politicians these days love to ban things. In the case of smoking, they figure it makes them look good ( healthy! ) and that there won't be too much opposition (the majority doesn't smoke and doesn't care much). As for the smokers: they're filthy and stupid, right? Who cares about them?

There is a lot of emotive nonsense talked about smoking bans, and I'd like to try to cut through some of it. There are three possible justifications for smoking bans, and antismokers shuffle between them like Three-Card Monte sharks. But none of them stands up to closer scrutiny.

(1) Some (or many) people don't like smoke. Sure, but this is a matter of taste, as well as, arguably, fashion. (I recently came across an article by psychologist Ernst Dichter in which he states that while everyone likes the smell of smoke, most people have to acquire the taste. It was written in 1947.)

It is madness for governments to pass laws on the basis of taste and fashion. Where are they supposed to stop? I don t mind smoke in a pub, but there are quite a few things I do mind.

Dogs (I'm allergic to them). Big TV screens. People shouting into mobile phones. Loud music. Bad music. Bad beer. Can I have a ban or two of my own, please?

If people don't like smoke, ventilation should be improved. If that's not enough, there should be separate rooms, and if that's not enough, a choice of smoking and nonsmoking venues.

But matters of taste and fashion are for the free market to decide, not the government. Smokers may be a minority (albeit a large one) but it is a misunderstanding of democracy to say that the tastes of the majority should be imposed on everyone (Thomas Jefferson warned against the tyranny of the majority ). Anyway, I don't believe the majority does want smoking bans; I think that even in the current antismoking climate, most people would, if given the option, prefer reasonable and considerate restrictions and some sort of choice. Smoking has been a part of British pub culture, for instance, for hundreds of years, and most people who go to pubs are still willing to accept it so long as the air isn't too smoky, and so long as people who are truly traumatised by smoke have some nonsmoking places to go to. I have some sympathy for these people, but for them to insist that smoking be banned in every pub in the country just in case they may want to someday go into one of them is pure selfishness.

Meanwhile there are some of us for whom a bar counter without ashtrays is naked, and a bar which forbids smoking is just not a bar. It s like a fish and chip shop which forbids salt and vinegar. It is an abomination.

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