The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Monday, January 16, 2006

The Secret Smoking Ban 

Did you know that Wauwatosa has banned smoking in restaurants? I sure as hell didn't. It's amazing how quietly something like that can happen in the city where you live. Don't believe me? Here is the ordinance passed in 2003, which will take effect July 1st of this year. I'm considering what I want to do about this... if there is really anything I can do except point it out to the rest of you. I'm not a smoker, but I am a firm believer in the rights of property owners to decide what can and can't occur on their property, and this is an affront to that.


"I'm not a smoker, but I am a firm believer in the rights of property owners to decide what can and can't occur on their property, and this is an affront to that."

I'm an old libertarian, so in principle I agree with you.

But as a practical matter, we do not allow property owners to use their property in a way that's contrary to public health.

Restaurants in particular have to adhere to certain sanitary and quality standards. (Thus, health inspections.)

In addition, considering what we know about the risks of second hand smoke, I think you can make a pretty good argument that smoking in an enclosed space is more than a simple annoyance: it's tantamount to assault.

Why should the restaurant owner's property rights trump the health of their employees and patrons?

As Oliver Wendell Holmes apparently said, "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins. "

In this context, I think that's a particularly appropriate quote.

  Posted at January 16, 2006 12:50 PM by Anonymous elliot  
First of all Elliot, I believe that if a restaurant so chooses, then it can privately decide to ban smoking on their property. That goes along with property rights. With that in mind, if you don't like smoking, and you're worried about the possible impacts of second hand smoke, then you can feel free to go to a restaurant that caters to that desire. There are plenty that have done that voluntarily. The same goes for employees.

As for the risks of second hand smoke... you'd be amazed at how over blown this could very well be. If you have some spare time on your hands... go find the names of three people who have had major health problems because of second hand smoke. Emphysema... lung cancer... something on those lines. Three people.... doesn't even have to be in the state. Any three people in the country.

Your right to swing your fist does end at someone else's nose. But by that same argument, the guy swinging his fist can't be blamed if you walk into his fist voluntarily while he's swinging.

  Posted at January 16, 2006 1:02 PM by Blogger Nick  
I'm surprised you just found out about it. It had a reasonable run on talk radio right after it happened. Of course, I'd already forgotten about it until reading this.
I may eat out more in Wauwatosa now. Not because I agree with the ban, but because where I live, there aren't bans (well, not in the evening), so there are no restaurants that have chosen to be non-smoking restaurants (yes, this is probably a slight exaggeration).

  Posted at January 17, 2006 9:49 AM by Anonymous Anonymous  
I seem to recall blogging about how I heard about it a while ago... either that, or I mentioned it to someone and they said... no way... and I sort of dropped it after that.

But the fact that it was on talk radio wouldn't clue me in at all because I don't listen to talk radio at all... ever.

  Posted at January 17, 2006 10:12 AM by Blogger Nick  
Weird. I thought I had posted conceding your points.

Guess it didn't get through.

Anyway. Good rebutal.

  Posted at January 18, 2006 9:52 AM by Anonymous elliot  
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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.

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