• Put This in Your Pipe (and Smoke it Outside)

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    Back in early
    2005 I took a six-day trip back to Ohio and ended up in "C-Bus,"
    our illustrious capital city, for a night of craziness with my cousins.
    Upon entering what looked to be a rather large club filled with
    half-naked girls (underachievers if you ask me), I pulled out a
    pack of weird Japanese cigarettes to show off and make myself comfortable

    Big mistake.
    Columbus had just banned smoking in all "public" areas,
    and I was now the cancerous elephant in the room. "Whoa, buddy!
    You can't smoke that in here!" said the bartender as he tapped
    a little plastic "No Smoking" sign.

    Now, I knew
    something was weird when I walked in the place, but I couldn't put
    my finger on it. Maybe it was the obnoxious "music" with
    lyrics describing various lewd and probably fun sexual acts that
    distracted me, but it just didn't feel like a real place, more like
    a movie set. More than anything, I just hate to be told what to
    do, so I vented to a friend and got this gut-buster in reply:

    "I love
    it, man! I really hate it when girls smoke."

    Ha! It may
    have been the dollar drafts talking, but now he won't even know
    if a girl is a smoker until they're arm-in-arm, drunkenly ambling
    back home for a night of lyric-writing on the couch. At that point
    I doubt he'll care too much about any of her nasty habits.

    Now, nearly
    two years later, I check out the Dayton Daily News election
    results (on what might be the worst newspaper website ever) to find
    that Ohio has just banned smoking in all "public" (there's
    that word again) places. This, of course, includes my hometown of
    Dayton, which has, apparently, only banned new jobs from the city
    limits and has a mayor that likes to wear funny hats.

    Geez, Ohio!
    I go away for a few years and you go and ban smoking on me? Just
    like that? No call? No memo? If I'd known before the election that
    you were getting so fed up with other people's business I may have
    taken the effort to register to vote, gripe a bit via email, and
    then not send in my absentee ballot out
    of principle

    It turns out
    that there were actually TWO initiatives on the ballot, both encouraging
    government force. Issue 4 was backed by "Big" tobacco
    companies through smokelessohio.com
    (now offline) who wanted to overturn all local Ohio bans, allow
    smoking in bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, bingo halls, etc,
    and require an amendment to the Ohio constitution for any future
    smoking ban. Issue 5 (the winner!), broadcasting from smokefreeohio.com,
    was an all-out ban on smoking in "public" (Argh!) places.
    Both played themselves off of each other, yet were blood-brothers
    in Big Government all the way.

    Being the kind
    of guy I am, I spent the next few hours perusing the various Pro/Con
    websites for the anti-smoking initiatives, and was brought down
    from shock to simple sadness. Not one of the opponents to the ban
    ever mentioned freedom or property rights. Instead, they came up
    with such lame defenses as:

    • Banning
      smoking will drive business away from bars/restaurants.
    • Smoking
      is dangerous, but so are other things like driving cars and rock-climbing.
    • We already
      have smoking sections, so what's the problem?

    First of all,
    banning smoking will most certainly not lower the business
    of any bar or restaurant that doesn't cater to a niche market of
    smokers, such as the Dublin Pub
    in Dayton that has (had?) a rather nice cigar selection. If anything,
    it might even bring in more people who usually avoid bars
    because they don't want to go home smelling like dad after poker
    night. There's definitely a huge market of smoke-haters out there
    who have money to spend.

    Also, yes,
    smoking is dangerous, and so is mountain-climbing, but can you seriously
    expect voters to look at that analogy and take it to heart? When
    was the last time someone was having dinner and the guy climbing
    the mountain next to them fell onto their table? Smoking is annoying
    to non-smokers, particularly when they're eating.

    As for smoking
    sections, it seems that smoke has a funny way of leaving the imaginary
    fence around that area and wafting over to the non-smoking section.
    Besides, smoking sections are a result of government regulation
    anyway, so how good could they really be?

    After I stopped
    laughing, I checked out the pro-ban sites, and found such lame reasons
    for the ban such as:

    All of them!

    On election
    eve, I received a "bulletin" on my Myspace
    profile from a friend promoting Issue 5. It included this passage,
    which sums up Issue 5's arguments:

    If you disdain
    government interference, vote no on Issue 4. It would change the
    Ohio Constitution so local communities couldn’t pass smoking restrictions.
    Do you want to give tobacco companies that kind of power? Do you
    want to give the state that kind of power?

    It then went
    on to promote Issue 5, as if it were God's gift to small government.
    With contradictions like that out there in the open, how could the
    ban's opponents screw it up? Well, because of Issue 4, there weren't
    any ban opponents! In fact, Issue 4 was such a blatant farce from
    the beginning that it probably brought more people to vote for Issue
    5 out of sheer hatred for tobacco companies.

    Ohio now has
    an all-encompassing smoking ban for "public" places that
    happens to be limited to places that aren't actually public. In
    fact, there will be more smoking in actual public places
    like streets and sidewalks now that no one can smoke inside. Isn't
    this yet another contradiction ripe for the crushing?

    The Solution!

    After a night
    of pondering the issues over a can of happoshu
    and a pack of Seven Stars, I found the perfect defense against smoking
    bans: It's not your bar!

    How difficult
    could that have been? Instead of arguing back and forth against
    the prohibitionists over stupid little talking points, they could
    have used an irrefutable argument. People like to nitpick on good/bad
    things that the government should/shouldn't do, but most of them
    understand basic property rights. Sure, you get the people who say
    that "hospitality workers" (read: bartenders and waitresses)
    are exposed to health-damaging smoke. Nonetheless, if you stick
    to your guns and simply repeat "It's not your bar!"
    there isn't anywhere for prohibitionists to go besides claiming
    that they do happen to have a financial stake in every bar, restaurant,
    bowling alley, and bingo hall in Ohio.

    Elections are
    all about messages, and especially the clarity of the messages.
    There's nothing more clear than asserting rights to your own property
    and standing up for yourself. Even Cato's own Tom Firey (from whom
    I got the lame "mountain climbing" analogy) couldn't bring
    himself to mention property rights in this week's Cato Daily Podcast
    about smoking bans. Instead of talking about "freedom"
    in abstract terms related to blowing up other countries, let's try
    using it for real in (gasp!) everyday life!

    Forget the
    tobacco companies! Forget the excuses! Repeat after me: It's not
    your bar!

    17, 2006

    Keferl [send him mail] is
    a Japan-based trendscout and researcher specializing in Japanese
    marketing and technology. In his free time he enjoys medium-format
    photography with his $20 plastic Holga, taking long baths in the
    local hot springs, being stuffed full of food by his girlfriend's
    grandmother, and finding all the cool ways Lucky Strike markets
    their coffin nails in Japan. You can find him at Kilian-Nakamura.com
    and Cscout.com.

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