December 04, 2003


New York, New York, it's a non-smoking town!
The laws are up and the sanity's down
The mayor belongs in a hole in the ground
New York, New York, it's a non-smoking town!

And that’s not the half of it. Mayor Bloomberg’s nicotine Taliban are now fining people for illegal possession of ashtrays:

As some New Yorkers have learned the hard way, the mere existence of an ashtray in a place where smoking is prohibited can lead to a summons. It doesn't matter if the ashtray is stored well away from public areas. It doesn't matter if it is used as a decoration, or to hold paper clips or M & M's. No ashtrays are allowed, period.

Since May 1, when the Health Department began to enforce the law in earnest, about 2,300 summonses have been issued, she said. A little more than 200 were for ashtray violations.

How do they define “ashtray”? Is it only purpose-made ashtrays that attract penalties, or any vessel that potentially could be used as an ash receptacle? Is anything wider than it is deep now illegal in New York? And if so, why isn’t Michael Moore in prison?

(Via Zsa Zsa, lurking in a Bloomberg-secure location.)

Posted by Tim Blair at December 4, 2003 10:40 PM

Speaking as a non-smoking New Yorker, I must say that Bloomberg exhibits the classic symptoms of the species Liberalis Tyrannus. He has got to go ... and he will, for this term will be his last.

Posted by: Kevin Smith at December 5, 2003 at 12:33 AM

Dude, he ain't no liberal -now, "authoritarian", "health fascist" or even "socialist", maybe...

Posted by: john b at December 5, 2003 at 12:46 AM

Ya gotta wonder how long it will be before one of the ashtray Sturmbannfurers gets tagged and bagged. There's parts of New Yawk where it ain't safe to tell people what they can and can't do in their own place. Thank God...

Posted by: mojo at December 5, 2003 at 02:09 AM

As a former smoker, but now "converted" non-smoker, I reap the benefits of such a ban.

Does mr. Blair have a solution that compromises between the old status-quo of non-smokers being forced to suck down smoke in restaurants and bars, yet isn't the scary communist solution Bloomberg has enforced?

Posted by: Bill at December 5, 2003 at 02:21 AM

Bill > Yeah, it's call seperated smoking and non-smoking areas. That's what we have here in Fort Worth (it may be all of Tarrent County, I'm not sure.) All resteraunts have a seperate space for smoking and non-smoking (and not just a random line down the middle, an actually seperate space so that the non smokers don't have to smell the cigarette smoke.

Posted by: amy at December 5, 2003 at 03:10 AM

Mr Blair does!

Restaurants and bars should be allowed to set their own smoking policies. Thus some venues would be smoke-free, to attract the non-smoking drinker or diner; and others would allow smoking at whatever level they decided (only at the bar, only in certain rooms, all over the place, etc).

Let the market decide.

Posted by: tim at December 5, 2003 at 03:13 AM

I'm a non-smoker, but this anti-smoking thing has gotten ridiculous. First, let's dispense with the idea that second-hand smoke is a serious health issue -- most advocates of smoking bans simply want it banned because it "bothers" or "irritates" them in places they have a "right" to eat in. So? Tacky decorations, cheap glassware, and loud music often bother me in restaurants as well, but no one seems to be advocating for my "right" to enjoy my meal without these "irritants." Eat in restaurants on their terms, not yours -- I'm sure there are plently of restaurants out there that will be smoke-free regardless of any bans imposed.

Posted by: Jerry at December 5, 2003 at 03:17 AM

Sadly, in American politics, liberal is too often a synonym for "authoritarian", "health fascist" and "socialist". In fact, "conservative" is often also a synonym for these same terms.

Posted by: R. C. Dean at December 5, 2003 at 05:45 AM

re: "let the market decide"

A simple and good enough answer in most cases (esp. free speech), and maybe this one, but so many popular places are "taken over" by smokers - it has a big impact on social dynamics.

For example - if I was still a a younger twenty-something, I'd have to take in a nice dose of involuntary smoke just to get laid. And really, who wants STD's AND lung cancer?

I think I like teh separate spaces deal, but then they'd have to mandate filtration systems, and that sounds too much like the EU.

As for "dispense with the idea that second-hand smoke is a serious health issue", what have YOU been smoking?

Posted by: Bill at December 5, 2003 at 06:19 AM

Just as you can eat and drink pretty much where you like, but you have to deposit the after-affects of eating and drinking in designated locations, let's do the same with smoking.
Suck on your cigarette wherever you like,
but exhale only in designated locations.

Or do you think that people should be able to defecate and urinated right next to people eating and drinking?

That being said, it's ridiculous to fine people for having an ashtray.

Posted by: Peggy Sue at December 5, 2003 at 07:07 AM

"Not having ashtrays and putting up no-smoking signs are two of the strongest ways to discourage smoking and to let people know what the current law is," the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Ms. Mullin said.

Mental Hygiene?

They should be handing out the gaspers, not having an ashtray witchhunt.

And Bill, you want these people to be able to carry on like this so you can (retrospectively) 'get laid'? How 'bout you work out your own nightlife strategies? Like, there are some very attractive non-smokers out there.

Posted by: ilibcc at December 5, 2003 at 10:38 AM

Hey, Bill, here's a wacky idea: don't go to places where smoking is allowed. No one held a gun to your head and marched you in, forcing you to breate the eeeeevil second-hand smoke.

As for second-hand smoke, the largest and most unbiased study ever done on the subject, a WHO study covering about 2000 individuals, found that second-hand smoke does not pose a significant health risk. The studies which have claimed it does have been debunked for either biased methods or just plain inaccurate data.

Posted by: Big Dog at December 5, 2003 at 10:47 AM

Being a RWDB I believe in allowing the market to decide where suitable. I beleive that in time OH&S Insurance will become the driving factor because bars, restaraunts etc are work places, and soon passive smoking claims will become a large expense. Employers will then have to choose between smoking patrons and high insurance costs, or non-smoking and low insurance. The market will win.

Posted by: Razor at December 5, 2003 at 11:50 AM

Tim, you owe me a beer. I just spit mine out because of your Moore comment. Well, not all of it, but come on.

It's okay though, I'll just subtract it from the running tally of beers I owe you.

Spleenville says "005249.php" for this entry, so let's just call it 5248, k?

Posted by: Bob at December 5, 2003 at 02:16 PM

ilibcc - it was a (half) joke. But any young single who goes out to any bar or club with the rest of their social group is forced to take in a lot of smoke. Finding smoke-free alternatives are not practical, but oh well, I guess.

And Big Dog - where's the link to your study? I use, not marlboro's web site.

We studied 546 boys and 558 girls. Among 611 children exposed to second-hand smoke, 82% had respiratory problems (odds ratio = 1.64; 95% confidence interval: 1.21-2.20). Children whose parents were smokers at the time of the survey were more likely to experience wheezing than children of nonsmoking parents (odds ratio = 1.66; 95% confidence interval: 1.21-2.27), shortness of breath (odds ratio = 1.91; 95% confidence interval: 1. 36-2.67), morning and day time or night coughs (odds ratio = 1.58; 95% confidence interval: 1.09-2.28). The odds ratio for asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia was greater for children exposed to second-hand smoke (odds ratio = 1.60; 95% confidence interval: 1. 11-2.31). CONCLUSIONS: Maternal smoking, paternal smoking, family history of respiratory diseases, and housing conditions are considered risk factors for respiratory diseases in children.

Posted by: Bill at December 5, 2003 at 02:25 PM

You can find the study broken down here, along with links related to that study and others.

Posted by: Big Dog at December 5, 2003 at 03:16 PM

Yes, Bill, my reply was intended in that vein as well. But seriously, I simply can't accept social engineering on that scale. I'll take passive smoke any day rather than some jumped-up public official rummaging through my crockery cupboard looking for ashtrays.

Incidentally and ironically I, as a non-smoker, in the past worked on publicity for a tobacco company; while a good friend, a chain smoker, was at the same time writing ads for Quit, the anti-smoking body. We both greatly enjoyed the irony - in fact, I used to encourage him to smoke more as it was the excise paid on cigarettes that funded Quit.

Posted by: ilibcc at December 5, 2003 at 04:04 PM