The boomerang effect of banning tobacco products

Various civil organizations have been banning the sale and use of tobacco products. Chewing or smoking tobacco is a confirmed health hazard and it has been established that use of tobacco is related to lung and oral cancer.
Given the facts, the work of the Good Samaritans to ban the sale and use of tobacco products is most praiseworthy. However, the effects of this worthy cause have led to bewildering results.
Sales and use have not stopped. Sale of spurious items have increased, the items have now to be brought into Manipur in a multi stage manner and this has sky-rocketed the prices. Finally those who were previously engaged in a thriving business are now dealing with a booming business Sans Frontières.
The Good Samaritans might chew off their nails, tear out their hair and beards, or whatever, and like Moses on the mountain peak in Sinai, thunder upon the sinners to change and shape up or else.
But we can’t, we are after all human beings and our lack of conviction and inability to accept the discomfiting nature of facts, along with cunning and technology that we have acquired separates us from other good primates. We just want to be plain bad.
And this is no self castigation to make a point that we are not good. We know what type of lives we should live to post permanent road signs for our children to follow, and yet, with all the genuine love and care we have for our beloved children our curiosity makes us continuously taste the forbidden fruit.
Having armed ourselves with such undesirable and yet undeniable facts let us ask ourselves a few questions. Has an embargo, a ban or a prohibition ever succeeded in human history ?
The answer is NO.
In modern times, the most serious effort made on these lines was the prohibition imposed on the American population by its legitimately elected government.
The imposition was supported to the hilt by the women and the church. It was imposed by amending the US constitution.
The fall out ? The fall out was that, average people like us got the benefit of knowing at least two new phrases in English, ‘bootlegging’ and ‘moonlighting’. The prohibition took place in the earlier part of the 20th century.
For those governing the USA, they received a corrupt and criminalised police force and a baby faced monster, the king of illicit distilling, called Al Capone. Many other millionaires too were created in dubious manners, one of whose sons, it is said, in hush hush tones, went on to become the president of the USA.
We obviously cannot achieve what the United States as a country could not. But, the cause is based on good intent and it needs support.
To start with, the movement should base its works on awareness campaigns and trust building measures. This will necessitate removal of professional prohibitionists, they are sullen, mean minded and act at the edge of the law’s limits.
There will be the need of professionals to take in the ‘sinners’ into their fold. Burning of tobacco based products is a method likely to yield the least results. The present steps are like climbing a mountain with your back laid across the mountain face.
After all we don’t want to land up in a situation, as in the Tintin books, where Professor Cuthbert Calculus perfected a pill to cure the insatiable desire of whisky of his friend Captain Haddock.
Captain Haddock did not take this kindly and suspected that the Professor was ‘trying to cure the pleasures of other people’.
Hueiyen Lanpao Editorial

Banning "light" from cigarette packs falls short

NEW YORK – More and more countries are banning the words “light” and “mild” from cigarette packs, but a new study suggests that may not be enough to dispel smokers’ misbeliefs that the products are safer.
Researchers found that after the UK, Australia and Canada banned the terms as deceptive, there was a dip in the number of people who mistakenly believed that cigarettes marketed as “light” or “mild” carried fewer health risks.
However, the decline was temporary, the investigators report in the journal Addiction.
And in the UK, misperceptions were consistently higher versus the other two countries, as well as the U.S. — where, at the time of the study, no such ban was in place.
“The findings from this study confirm our earlier work showing that merely removing the terms ‘light’ and ‘mild’ from cigarette packs is insufficient to change people’s beliefs that those products are safer,” lead researcher Dr. Hua-Hie Yong said in an email.
To really clear up misperceptions, more steps are needed, according to Yong, of the Cancer Council Victoria in Melbourne, Australia.
“Light” cigarettes are designated as such because they deliver less nicotine and lower levels of toxic chemicals — or “tar” — when the smoke is measured by a machine.
In real life, though, studies show that smokers inhale comparable amounts of nicotine and chemicals regardless of the brand. And critics have long charged that tobacco products dubbed “light” or “mild” confuse people into thinking there are fewer health risks.
In response, the European Union and Brazil put bans on those terms in 2003, and other countries have since followed suit.
A U.S. law that bars the words “light,” “low tar” and “mild” from tobacco products went into effect almost exactly one year ago.
For the new study, Yong’s team looked at results from an international survey done annually between 2002 and 2009 in Australia, Canada, the UK and the U.S.
The surveys involved a total of 21,600 smokers who were asked the extent to which they agreed with statements like, “Light cigarettes are less harmful than regular cigarettes.”
Overall, the study found that shortly after “light” bans went into effect, misperceptions about the cigarettes generally dipped in Australia, Canada and the UK.
However, the false beliefs began to creep back in within a couple years.
In the UK, which banned the terms in 2003, misperceptions remained persistently higher than in other countries, including the U.S. On average, UK smokers had a higher level of agreement with statements extolling the advantages of light cigarettes over regulars.
It’s not clear why that is, according to Yong.
But one reason, the researchers speculate, could be a UK law of the same time period that forced tobacco makers to lower the tar “yield” in cigarettes. That, Yong said, might have drawn smokers’ attention to the tar issue, and reinforced the belief that lower tar means a safer cigarette.
After the U.S. ban went into effect last year, some health advocates, including the American Lung Association (ALA), applauded the move but said that deceptive packaging remains a problem.
Some manufacturers sell light and regular cigarettes in packages of different colors. And allowable terms like “smooth” and “silver,” critics say, may still mislead consumers.
The current findings underscore the fact that no single step is enough to combat years of misleading tobacco marketing, according to Erika Sward, director of national policy and advocacy at the ALA.
“This is one more piece of information that points to a need for a big-picture, comprehensive solution,” Sward said in an interview.
One change that could help, according to Sward, would be an end to the “color-coding” of cigarette packs that lets smokers know which ones are “light” or regular.
She said the ALA hopes that the Food and Drug Administration — only recently given the power to regulate tobacco products — will conduct research to see whether package coloring affects consumers’ choices.
Australia recently introduced legislation to become the first country in the world to require all tobacco products to be sold in “plain packaging.” The tobacco industry has come out against such a move, saying there’s no evidence it would make a dent in smoking rates.
Both Yong and Sward pointed to a need for ongoing public education.
Many smokers, Yong said, “continue to believe that some cigarettes are safer than others based on the fact that they taste ‘milder’ or it has a lower tar yield, and this false belief will keep them smoking instead of quitting.”
“There is no safe cigarette on the market,” Sward said. And if smokers want to do something for their health, she added, they can seek help in quitting — from their doctors, the ALA, or the government-sponsored quitline 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
By Amy Norton

Why Big Gaming helped snuff out voter-approved smoking ban

The first time tavern owners tried to overturn the smoking ban, during the 2009 Legislature, I was amazed they even got it out of committee, foolishly thinking Democrats in the majority would never go against the voters who had approved the ban in 2006. I asked a lobbyist working against the smoking ban if he’d be getting a bonus in cartons of cigarettes.
“Cigarettes?” he replied. “Those things will kill you.”
The gallows humor only continued this session, when lobbyists hired to end the ban on serving food in taverns that allow smoking came up with a brilliant way to frame the argument:
Oh no, we’re not trying to bring smoking into taverns. We want to bring food into taverns. See? It’s not the smoking bill. It’s the cheeseburger bill.
This ingenious bit of nonsense was meant to obscure the fact that Nevada must be the only state in the union that is about to loosen restrictions on indoor smoking in public areas.
I’m genuinely conflicted by this issue, but here’s what I know:
At the center of it, as with so much else in Nevada politics and government, is Big Gaming.
In 2005 and 2006, as the anti-smoking coalition prepared its initiative, it shied away from a statewide public indoor smoking ban that has proved successful — and popular — in California, New York and more than 20 other states that live under the thumb of what one pal jokingly called “Big Health.”
Why didn’t the Nevadans go for a statewide ban?
Tom McCoy, head of government affairs for the American Cancer Society’s Nevada chapter, was quite open about it: “From a practical standpoint, the decision was made that this campaign would never have the ability, the funding, the political capital to accomplish a totally smoke-free Nevada our first time out. So a decision was made not to go after Big Gaming. I don’t think I have to tell you the power of Big Gaming.”
No, you certainly don’t.
So instead, they made a deal with the devil, as Big Gaming happily watched as the anti-smoking coalition proceeded to go after Big Gaming’s competitors — grocery and convenience stores with slot machines and of course the taverns that were on every corner in 2006, serving food and drink to smoking and gambling customers who were awash in money working overtime on construction sites or flipping houses.
The problems with the initiative, aside from exempting the big resorts, were many: The criminal penalties were poorly drafted and struck down.
In Southern Nevada, Metro Police decided it couldn’t enforce the initiative, so it was left to the Health District. Who knew we even had a Health District?
The target, bizarrely, was the smoker, not the tavern. What Health District worker wanted to levy a fine on some big biker dude?
So it’s often not being enforced. Drive around on a Saturday night and I guarantee you’ll be able to find a place where you can alternate bites on your cheeseburger with a puff of a cigarette. Mmmm.
Still, many taverns decided to abide by the law. In many cases they separated their food from their smoking bars at great expense. Or they got rid of food and lost customers. Or they got rid of smoking.
Enter Dotty’s, the sad little slot parlors that don’t serve real food and so allow smoking. Dotty’s has spread through the valley like the flu in a grade school, in part because it doesn’t have to deal with the smoking ban.
Big Gaming, especially Station Casinos, had seen enough Dotty’s open under its nose, and so the Nevada Resort Association went to the Clark County Commission to do what it believed the Gaming Commission should have done a long time ago and declared the Dotty’s business model illegal.
To win over the tavern owners as allies in their fight against Dotty’s, the Nevada Resort Association pledged to help overturn the smoking ban at the Legislature.
And guess what? After failing in 2009, this time, with Big Gaming on its side, it succeeded. The bill passed late in the session, and the governor will probably sign it.
By rolling back the initiative, Big Gaming insulates itself from a smoking ban because any ban would probably be incremental and thus two steps away from reaching the biggest casinos. The industry essentially bought itself a few years of smoky reprieve from the health crowd.
The downside: Service workers will be exposed to secondhand smoke.
The response: Go get a job at a place that’s smoke-free. OK, but that’s a tough message to send in an economy with double-digit unemployment.
The smoking ban is on the mat, and as one tavern lobbyist joked, “Next session, we go for the day care centers.” At least, I hope he was joking.
By J. Patrick Coolican

Is New York City’s Outdoor Smoking Ban Going To Be Successful?

If you’re looking to light up in New York City, your chances of finding a place to do it just went up in smoke.
Starting last week, the Big Apple placed a ban on smoking in most public places, including public parks, beaches and, most notably, “pedestrian plazas” like Times Square. Those found smoking in any of these areas will be subject to a $50 fine. The thought behind the ban on smoking in New York City is that it will help eliminate second-hand smoke and force smokers to limit their smoking to their own private property or areas where they will not pollute the air other people have to breathe in.
They’re not the first major city to impose a ban like this—Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Salt Lake City also have bans on smoking in public places—but they are certainly the most high-profile city to put a ban like this into place. Just a couple of decades ago, smoking was the least of the Big Apple’s worries. But as the dangers of second-hand smoke have increased—about 50,000 people die from it every year—the city has taken a strong stance of smoking moving forward. However, will this smoking ban actually work? We don’t think so. Here are a few reasons why the new ban won’t end NYC’s smoking problem.
As of right now, the law essentially has to be enforced by those who want it to be enforced.
There are a lot of people who smoke in New York City. So officials already know it will be difficult to ticket everyone who lights up in a public place where smoking is banned. Therefore, they’re counting on regular people to tell others to put out their cigarettes in banned zones. We’re not sure if you’ve ever tried to tell someone from New York City to do, well, anything, but guess what? It’s usually not met with an “Okay!” and a smile. So, how long ’til the first fight stemming from the smoking ban winds up on WorldStar?
Cigarettes cost a fortune in NYC—and NYC smokers feel a certain sense of entitlement because of it.
When you’re paying 10 bucks or more for a pack of cigarettes, you’re probably not going to let anyone tell you where you can or can’t smoke. Especially if you’re standing outside. That high price alone means that smokers aren’t going to be quick to put out their smokes if they’re standing in a banned area.
There are plenty of groups against this law that are already speaking out.
Anyone who doesn’t smoke probably wants this law on the books. But unlike a few years ago when they pushed hard to get smoking banned in restaurants and other indoor spaces—and rightfully so—they’re not likely to push as hard as they did back then for this new law. On the flip side, smokers understood the complaints about smoking in indoor spaces to a degree and didn’t fight that law extra hard, but they’re much more likely to be upset about this new one. To them, it’s a violation of their rights—and represents a misstep by the local government. So expect groups like the newly-formed C.L.A.S.H. (Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment)—which is already staging a “smoke in the park” event—to fight hard to have their voices heard.
The ban doesn’t yet extend to many of the outdoor places that really bother non-smokers.
You’re not allowed to smoke in the airways or anywhere near the airways of most buildings in New York City, but smokers still manage to congregate as close to them as possible. And under this new ban, that’s still okay (there are some exceptions!). The sidewalks of New York City are actually where smoke bothers non-smokers the most, so until the ban blankets the entire city, we don’t see it making a huge difference for non-smokers yet.
There just aren’t enough ways to enforce a law like this.
This law reminds us a lot of the seatbelt tickets that were imposed on drivers in most states a few years back. In theory, the law makes sense and is designed to protect people. But it’s going to be tough to impose it unless NYC takes a tough approach with it and makes it a priority to bust people smoking in banned areas. And even if they do do that, it seems like a big waste of manpower when you consider all of the other things that law officers could be doing. We get it—smoking is bad! But we don’t see this ban doing a whole lot to change that for anyone.

Antismoking Bill May Mean the End of Hookah Houses

California’s last governor was so committed to lighting up that he kept a cigar tent outside his office, vetoed the state-park beach smoking-bansmoking ban, and even went out of his way to demonstrate that the occasional Cuban won’t impair a man’s ability to procreate.
Fred Noland
The election of smoke-averse Jerry Brown might be the end of days for area puffers — especially those who don’t favor cigarettes.
The state Senate passed SB332, allowing landlords to ban smoking on their properties. (The bill has moved to the state Assembly.) More pressingly, the state Senate has taken up SB575, a bill hatched by state Sen. Paul DeSaulnier (D-Walnut Creek) to close “loopholes” in the 1994 workplace smoking ban.
In the name of protecting employees from secondhand smoke, the bill would eliminate smoking in places we didn’t know still allowed it: breakrooms, hotel lobbies, and banquet rooms. It also targets tobacco shops and hookah lounges.
As you might expect, tobacco shops and hookah lounges are upset. “As a business owner, I’m sympathetic,” Senator DeSaulnier tells SF Weekly. “We’re just trying for a fair playing field.”
But how fair? Many Democratic state senators (including San Francisco’s Leland Yee) have promised to support the bill if it is amended to make an exception for cigar bars that don’t serve food or drink. DeSaulnier says that such an amendment is forthcoming — but that it is unlikely to exempt hookah lounges. “There’s an argument that says they’re not in compliance with current law,” he says.
Smoking is currently permissible at independently owned businesses that (among other lawyerly factors) can demonstrate that their “main purpose” is the sale of tobacco. Some of the hookah cafes that have proliferated in California insist that they sell more hookah than food or drink, which makes them legal.
DeSaulnier disagrees: “If you’re going to run a restaurant, that’s one thing. But if it’s a cafe or lounge with secondhand smoke, employees need to be protected. In this kind of labor market, workers should have the right to know what kind of business people are running.”
Unlike cigar retailers, hookah houses don’t enjoy the lobbying efforts of trade groups and tobacco companies.
This inspired SF Weekly to troll local hookah joints and ask employees: “Did you know there’s smoking going on here?”
They did. The manager of one popular spot says, “Of course everyone here knows. If my employees could sign and say they accept this environment, they would all sign!” He adds that regulators have little understanding of hookah: “Even the health department, when they came in, I had to show them what to look for. I showed them the plastic tips and how the water vapor works. I explained to them that it’s dried fruit, not tobacco.”
He added, “Make sure you put that in! It’s apples! It’s fruit!”
By Alan Scherstuhl

Lawmakers debate bill to change indoor smoking ban in Nevada

Lawmakers have launched another 11th-hour debate into changing the voter-approved indoor smoking ban to allow bars and taverns to allow both smoking and food.
In Assembly Bill 571’s first hearing today, tavern owners renewed their argument that the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act has decimated their businesses, forcing them to lay off employees and costing them millions in revenue.
That law, passed by voters in 2006, forced many bars and taverns to choose between serving food and allowing smoking, undermining the business models of establishments throughout the state.
“Our business began to suffer immediately,” said Blake Sartini, CEO of Golden Gaming. “Smokers no longer felt welcome and non-smokers did not fill the void.
“We are a unique business. Smoking customers are a necessary component to a healthy tavern business.”
Proponents of the bill argued it would allow establishments that already allow smoking to serve food, as long as they don’t allow minors.
But while that may be the bill’s intent, it likely would also allow some taverns that serve food and allow children to once again allow smoking.
“You can certainly read it that way,” said Sean Higgins, lobbyist for a coalition of tavern owners and slot-route operators, who proposed the legislation. “But that is not the intent.”
Several of Higgins’ clients built a wall to separate their smoking bar customers from their food customers. Children are allowed in the restaurant portion of the business. Higgins said he wrote the legislation to allow those businesses to serve food in the bar and continue to allow children in the restaurant.
Anti-smoking advocates argued the bill is a “smoke screen” designed to hide a significant weakening of the voter-approved indoor smoking ban.
“This amendment of the existing definition of stand alone bar, would indeed expand the scope of where smoking is currently allowed,” said Michael Hackett, a lobbyist who helped organize the smoking ban petition.
Lawmakers on the Ways and Means Committee did not vote on AB571 today, but several lawmakers appeared antagonistic to the ban.
Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, said the smoking ban resulted in little more than layoffs.
“I don’t see that Question 5 actually worked,” she said. “People are still smoking. You didn’t change the actual act of smoking.
“You just have a bunch of people sitting at a bar smoking, drinking and playing poker with no food available.”
Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, chairwoman of the committee, had no reason for why the bill was introduced in the final days of the Legislature.
“It’s just one of those things that happen in the session,” she said

Bill would snuff out Nevada’s smoking ban in bars

CARSON CITY — Lawmakers have introduced a surprise bill to lift the ban on smoking in bars that serve food, a move that might have generated more buzz Friday night if many taverns weren’t already breaking the law.
Inside the Tap House in Las Vegas, which cheerfully declares itself “smoker friendly!” on its façade, smokers and nonsmokers already sit side-by-side near patrons eating dinner.
“If I wanted clean air and kids around I’d go to a bookstore,” said Kenny Stevens, 36, who doesn’t smoke but still was pleased by the news.
Such statements were the norm in 2006, when voters approved the Clean Indoor Air Act, the measure that banned smoking in many businesses, including bars, taverns and saloons that serve food. Friday’s measure would repeal the restrictions on bars, but not on restaurants, slot-machine areas of grocery stores, schools and day-care centers.
Despite smokers’ nonchalance, the lawmakers’ action drew immediate condemnation from health advocates and applause from the tavern industry.
One Clark County commissioner said the casino industry was pressing lawmakers for the change to repay tavern owners for supporting restrictions on Dotty’s and other small-gaming establishments.
The Ways and Means Committee introduced Assembly Bill 571 so lawmakers can debate whether to repeal the ban for places that serve people who are 21 or older, said Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, the panel’s chairwoman.
She said bar owners, especially in Southern Nevada, have complained that the smoking ban has hurt business at a time when the economy is slumping.
“The tavern owners say they have suffered very serious business losses and people have lost their jobs because of the ban,” Smith said in an interview Friday.
Smith said she was reserving judgment on the bill, which will get a committee hearing Monday.
The ban is more contentious in Southern Nevada where taverns are competing with businesses such as Dotty’s that have no kitchens and cater to smokers who play slots. In Washoe County, there are fewer problems with the ban, Smith said.
The late introduction of the bill in the final two weeks of the session suggests some Democratic leaders back it.
It would probably get bipartisan support if it’s cast as a jobs-saver, and if big gaming gets behind the effort — increasing the chance of it passing.
Assemblyman Mark Sherwood, R-Henderson, decried the original ban and blamed “anti-smoking Nazis” for helping push voters to approve it in the first place.
“It’s been horrible for business,” Sherwood said when asked about the smoking restrictions, which he said were too harsh. “There are ways to do this without being draconian.”
But the American Lung Association in Nevada lambasted the effort to restore smoking in pubs that sell food.
The group noted that 310,000 people voted to forbid smoking near food. And in the same election, voters defeated a competing measure the industry proposed that would have weakened existing state laws on smoking in public places.
“There’s no safe level of secondhand smoke,” said Allison Newlon Moser, the lung association’s executive director.
It not only goes against the will of the public, Moser said, but it imperils the health of employees who must work in smoky settings. Working eight hours in a place with heavy secondhand smoke can be tantamount to puffing a pack of cigarettes, she said.
Nevadans already have a higher rate of emphysema than the national average, largely because of tobacco and air pollution, Moser said.
“The tavern owners talk about the jobs that are lost,” she said. If the bill passes, “it would only increase jobs for health care workers.”
Some bars and taverns complied with the ban, erecting walls between their restaurant and bar areas. But many business appeared to do little or nothing to comply with the effort. At the Tap House Friday evening, patrons smoked and drank at the bar, while others ate dinner just a few feet away.
Ken Kotora and his wife, Jaennette , have been visiting the bar since they moved to Las Vegas in 1996. They’re nonsmokers, and they were eating just a few feet away from smokers.
Ken Kotora, 65, voted in favor of the ban — but on accident. He said the language of the petition was misleading. He favors legislators repealing the ban.
“Don’t stop a bar from smoking,” he said. “Smokers have rights too.”
The couple said they noticed fewer customers at the Tap House just after the ban took effect, but business has returned to normal since.
One pub owner cheered when he heard of the legislative effort to overturn the ban.
Those who pursued the ban claimed that it would increase foot traffic in bars because more people would be attracted to smoke-free venues, but the opposite proved true, said Joe Wilcock, owner of the Brewery Bar and Grill and past president of the Nevada Tavern Association.
“That’s a fallacy — it never happened,” said Wilcock, who estimates his sales dropped by 25 percent.
No one can deny that smoking is unhealthy, Wilcock said. But people who don’t want to breathe secondhand smoke should not work or hang out in places where smoking is allowed, he said.
Wilcock noted that casinos are exempt from the smoking ban, calling it “hypocritical.”
County Commissioner Tom Collins, a former assemblyman, said he heard that big casinos cut a deal with the tavern owners; if the taverns backed restrictions on Dotty’s, the casinos would support lifting the smoking ban.
“That’s politics,” Collins said.
Gaming operators complained that it was unfair that they pay a percentage of their gambling revenue, while small establishments pay a flat fee, Collins said.
In April, commissioners approved new rules for Dotty’s and similar venues that include a requirement to embed eight gaming machines in bars instead of propping the machines atop bars. These businesses must comply within two years.
Also, any new place operating as a tavern must have 2,500 square feet of public space, a kitchen open at least 12 hours a day and be 2,000 feet away from another tavern.
Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resort Association, declined to comment about the bill, saying she had just learned about it.
Jennifer Sizemore, Southern Nevada Health District spokeswoman, said the bill is no surprise.
Health officials began hearing rumblings during the Dotty’s uproar that the tavern industry would try to reverse the smoking ban, she said. Although the bill would forbid smoking if minors are on the premises, there are concerns about patrons and workers inhaling cigarette fumes, she said.
“As a public health agency, our goal is to protect as many people as possible from the dangers of secondhand smoke,” Sizemore said.
By Scott Wyland: [email protected] or 702-455-4519.
By Laura Myers: [email protected] or 702-387-2919.

Texas may get indoor smoking ban

AUSTIN – Texas lawmakers have been trying to pass a statewide indoor smoking ban since 2007. This year could be the year it happens.
“We lose 49,000 Americans a year to heart disease and stroke because of secondhand smoke,” said Lake Dallas Republican State Representative Myra Crownover . “We lose 400,000 Americans a year to direct smoking. This is outrageous.”
Crownover’s bill would add requirements for smoke free environments to licenses issued to restaurants and bars by health departments and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission .
“That deals with things like keeping milk at the right temperature, keeping the facilities clean, having people wash their hands,” Crownover said, “and it makes no sense that you would go into a restaurant or a bar expecting a clean facility and breathe arsenic, benzene and formaldehyde.”
The legislation would make Texas the first state in the South to enact an indoor smoking ban that applies not only to bars and restaurants, but to offices and other indoor public areas, as well. That does not necessarily make the state a leader, though.
“Twenty-nine states have already gone smoke-free,” said James Gray, the Director of Legislative and Government Affairs for Smoke Free Texas . “In Texas, 35 communities have already gone smoke-free: Dallas, Houston, Austin and others. Where that positions us is to know exactly what will happen.”
Gray points to research that supports the notion that banning second hand indoor smoke results in public health benefits very quickly.
“We know that cardiovascular disease can be agitated with a 30 minute exposure to secondhand smoke, asthma, emphysema, low birth weight babies.” said Gray. “So there is an immediate effect with, or adverse effect to exposure from secondhand smoke. And so as soon as you take it out of the workplace, that effect is gone.”
Indeed, during the two years between this legislative session and the 2009 gathering of lawmakers, the State Department of Health and Human Services studied the issue and predicted a smoking ban would save the state’s share of Medicaid expenses in the neighborhood of $30 million, in the next two years alone.
Research done by Smoke Free Texas says if the overall cost to the Texas economy was taken into account the biennial savings would exceed $400 million.
Numbers like that have a nice ring to senators and representatives struggling to climb out of a massive budget hole.
“We have strong support in the House,” said Gray. “We have 80-plus members who have signed onto the House bill. It was one of the first bills to come out of committee in the Senate, so if we get something moving on the House side, that will really create some urgency on the Senate side and hopefully you’ll see some of that support really galvanize.”
The smoking ban bill was actually poised for consideration by the full House last week, but Crownover decided to withdraw it on the very day of a deadline to consider House bills.
“I pulled it down then because I knew that it would take some time in debate,” she said. “I pulled it down in respect for other members’ bills, so that they could get those heard.”
That, of course, is one way to win friends and influence people.
“There was a sigh of relief, yes,” Crownover laughed.
But she had another idea up her sleeve. A budget-related “fiscal matters” bill is due up for debate before the full house Wednesday, May 18. It contains language relating to health issues and the representative intends to offer her smoking ban as an amendment to that bill, arguing that because it would save the state money, including the proposal in the fiscal matters legislation would conform to House rules.
“Momentum is building for this bill,” Crownover said.
Gray, the lobbyist for Smoke Free Texas, agrees.
“Here’s something that the legislature can do that costs no money, whatsoever,” he said, “and creates significant economic return on investment, but also significant improvement to the public health of Texans.”
But despite the momentum the smoking ban appears to have, the state budget already passed by the House of Representatives takes away all the money the health department uses for a program that helps people quit smoking . It also cuts money the comptroller’s office uses to send grants to local law enforcement agencies , grants that help them keep tobacco out of the hands of children. But at Smoke Free Texas, folks are not too worried about all that.
“That’s a struggle,” Gray said. “It’s always been a struggle to keep tobacco control funds in the budget and it’s unfortunate because these programs are very effective. But once we pass the law, organizations like the American Cancer Society and others will work with the various state agencies to provide those resources. So we might not have the same resources at State Health Services for tobacco cessation that we had two years ago, but my organization, as well as others, are gearing up for when that outcome does happen. We can provide that support; that’s what we do well and we’re very happy to take on that extra work when and if it does happen.”
With the debate centered on those kinds of issues, Crownover is optimistic that the road to a statewide indoor smoking ban is about to reach its destination.
“In the past, people said, ‘Oh this is about private property rights.’ You don’t have private property rights to kill people. You don’t have individual liberties to take someone’s health. Why I love this issue is that it’s an education issue: The more you talk about it, the more impossible it becomes to defend having somebody have the right to take away somebody else’s health.”
By Jim Swift

How effective is Virginia’s smoking ban?

On Dec. 1, 2009, bars and restaurants across Virginia were ordered to put out their cigarettes or renovate their buildings to accommodate non-smokers. A year and a half later, how effective is the ban?
Under the smoking ban, no establishment that sells food can allow smoking, unless it has a separate smoking area, with a door between the smoking and non-smoking sections, and at least one entrance that opens into the non-smoking area.
Initially, a number of bars refused to comply with the law. Many smokers, like Virginia Commonwealth University junior David Turko, a self described “barfly,” objected to the ban.
“When you’re a smoker, you go to a bar and drink,” Turko said. “They go together like milk and cookies.”
He said a few places, like Bandito’s and Joe’s Inn, still allow smoking. But workers at both bars said they are now in full compliance with the law.
“We have all the required facilities,” said Tina Kaftaris, a bartender at Joe’s Inn. “We have separate smoking facilities with its own heating and cooling, circulation and entry.”
Health officials say that while most restaurants are in compliance, the law is difficult to enforce, because the punishment is just a $25 fine, and police are reluctant to spend their time pursuing such a small amount.
“The way the law was originally written … the most a person could be fined was $25. For the police to respond to a call, send an officer out there, write up somebody and go to court, the cost of that would be far over $25,” said John Shellenberg of the Hampton Health Department.
“I am unaware of any police department in the state that has actively enforced the smoking ordinance.”
But Shellenberg says he has found a new way to enforce the ban: persuading the Alcoholic Beverage Control board to make compliance with the smoking ban a condition of a restaurant’s liquor license.
In one case, Shellenberg said, “The agent wrote up a violation against the owner, against his ABC license; we had the hearing; and the eventual outcome was the hearing officer found them guilty of violating it. They were given a choice – either a [$500] fine or a suspension of their ABC license for a week.”
According to Shellenberg, one bar already has been fined and is now working to comply. He hopes the other holdouts will follow.
“One of the remaining places has already voluntarily decided to stop smoking in their establishment and pursue compliance,” Shellenberg said. “We have two that have not, that we have sent 30-day notices to, that unless they do get in compliance, we will work with the ABC again and violate their ABC license.”
Many bartenders say that despite their initial reluctance, the smoking ban hasn’t been a problem, and they’re glad it’s there.
“It’s a pain in the ass to have to go outside to smoke during the winter,” said Chris Merkin, a bartender at Empire Lounge. “But it’s nice being able to work as a bartender and not come home with black boogers.”
Gary Hagy, director of the Virginia Department of Health’s Division of Food and Environmental Services, says that overall, the law has been extremely successful.
“Since the bill went into effect, we’re now at 98 percent of restaurants are in compliance with the law,” Hagy said. “I think when we have the record showing 98 percent of our restaurants are in compliance, that’s a pretty good success there.”
What Does the Smoking Ban Say?
Any establishment that serves food must:
Post “No Smoking Signs” clearly and conspicuously
Remove all ashtrays and smoking paraphernalia from the non-smoking areas
Make sure at least one entrance from the outside leads directly into the non-smoking area
If smoking is allowed, restrict it to a separate area with a separate ventilation system
Moreover, no staff members may be required to work in the smoking section
By Danny Rathbun, Capital News

Upper West Side Condo Votes to Ban Smoking

NEW YORK CITY’S smoking ban spreads from bars and restaurants to parks and beaches Monday, and now one condominium on the smokingbanUpper West Side has taken the step of prohibiting residents from smoking inside their apartments.
Even smokers who moved into the building, the Ariel West, before the ban must abide by it. The building is one of the first in the city to approve such an extensive ban.
Owners in the building, a 32-story glass tower at Broadway and 99th Street, voted 47 to 3 to approve the ban late last month. There are 68 owners in total; 46 votes constituted the supermajority required to change the bylaws.
“Even though people bought into this building thinking they could smoke,” said Gideon Stein, the president of the condo board at Ariel West, “people do not have a constitutional right to smoke.”
That said, the three-year-old building is not about to become a police state. Enforcement will be complaint-driven, and no one will be knocking on doors or sniffing out smokers. Smoking could, however, quickly become an extremely expensive habit, since the first complaint will draw a $150 fine, and the fine for each succeeding complaint will increase by $150.
“The idea is obviously a controversial one,” said Bruce Littlefield, who lives in a two-bedroom apartment in the building and who voted for the ban, “because people’s domain is their home, and they certainly should be able to enjoy what they do within the walls of their home. But sometimes what people do seeps outside their walls and into other people’s environment, and it becomes a quality-of-life issue.”
Most New Yorkers have long since adjusted to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s smoking ban in the workplace and have come to expect smoke-free air, Mr. Littlefield said. Even though it was not so long ago that airplanes still had smoking sections, he added, “smokers know not to ask anymore, ‘Can I smoke in your house?’ That’s so last decade.”
Mr. Stein first floated the idea of a smoking ban two years ago. There was substantial support for it, but he did not pursue it because he knew that passing it would require a buildingwide campaign. Since then, though, several homeowners have complained about the smell of cigarette smoke seeping into their apartments, typically through air vents in bathrooms or in kitchens.
Dorothy Leeds and her husband, Arnold Weinstock, live in a five-bedroom apartment at the Ariel West, and they started noticing smoke in one bathroom and bedroom shortly after their upstairs neighbors moved in. “My husband and I are both cancer survivors,” Ms. Leeds said, “so we’re very conscious of our health and we’re very sensitive to this.”
She said that when they complained to the building’s developer, the Extell Development Company, workers promptly showed up, opened up walls and then resealed the ceiling and walls to try to keep the smoke out. Extell, which still holds a majority on the condo board, also provided ionizers to purify the air in Ms. Leeds’s apartment and her neighbor’s. Ms. Leeds, who uses the affected bedroom as an office, says that as soon as she and her husband get a whiff of smoke, they open the window, shut the door, and turn on the exhaust fan in the en-suite bathroom.
“We’d stay away from that room, let the exhaust fan run all night and by morning the smoke would be gone,” Mr. Weinstock said. “But it would get very cold in the winter and it made that room 60 percent unusable.” The problem has abated with the warmer weather, he said, but they knew it would return again next winter.
“We were so thrilled that Gideon took on this cause,” Ms. Leeds said. “I voted for it and I would have stuffed the ballots if I could.”
Mr. Stein said that when he took a straw poll in March, 33 homeowners responded immediately that they would support a smoking ban. He spent the next six weeks pursuing the 13 votes he would need to pass a bylaw change.
None of the apartments are investor owned, and no one expressed concerns that a ban might hurt property values or make it difficult to sell an apartment. On the contrary, most people thought it might enhance values. But there were residents who thought the ban would intrude on individual liberties.
“It involved an education campaign where my wife and I spoke to people and explained to them that this is a health issue and we’ve got people who are affected adversely by secondhand smoke,” Mr. Stein said. “And I would say to them that the ability to breathe clean air in your own apartment is a much greater and important liberty than the ability to smoke in your own apartment.”
Noel Labat-Comess said he voted against the ban because he thought it was too simplistic and did not address the needs of current owners who might be smokers. “I’m not a smoker and I don’t like smoking,” he said, “but it is legal, and people have a right to smoke in their homes.” Someone who bought an apartment at the height of the market could now be faced with having to move and sell at a loss, he added.
But Eva C. Talel, the condo board’s lawyer, said: “Nobody is forced to do anything here, and if you don’t like the new rule, part of what you do when you buy into a community is you buy into a set of rules that could change if a sufficient number of your neighbors want them to. The building has change built into the system.”
Lisa Lippman, an apartment owner and a senior vice president of Brown Harris Stevens who has sold several apartments in the building, said she doubted the ban would drive anyone out. “Most people are already asked by their family members not to smoke in their home,” she said. “Now technically they can’t, and they’re going to have to be more careful about it.”
The fact that the Ariel West is made up mainly of family-sized apartments with three or more bedrooms, and that it has more than 100 children under 16, probably helped make the ban easier to pass. “A lot of parents were happy that their children will now know that there will be financial penalties if they smoke, and it’s not just Mom and Dad telling them not to,” Mr. Stein said.
Geoffrey Porges lives in a three-bedroom apartment with his wife, Jennifer, and their 6-month-old daughter, Margo. He said he had been ambivalent about a ban when Mr. Stein suggested it two years ago, because condos are supposed to avoid the kinds of restrictions more typically associated with co-ops. “We have a big dog,” Mr. Porges said. “Is the next restriction going to be about big dogs, or chewing gum, or noisy teenagers, or stinky cheese?”
But this time around, perhaps because Margo had just been born, “we realized it’s really nice to have a building that no matter where you are, there isn’t a smell of stale tobacco,” he said. “Plus with no smoking in restaurants and bars anymore, our expectation for our environment has altered, too. It’s really become normal for places to have smoking restrictions.”