Saturday, March 22, 2008

I Prefer Freedom, Thanks

I ran across this little nugget the other day regarding oak aged beers. It seems that California has an ill advised law charging a higher tax for what they deem alcopops. But the law is written in such a way that an oak aged beer could be deemed to be an alcopop by the taxman (who more than likely doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground when it comes to beer).
Brewers will be “required” to “prove” their beer doesn’t meet that criteria, meaning they’ll have to submit a form for every current and new beer they produce, a ridiculous requirement at best. Effectively they’ll have to “prove” each beer they make is really a beer, and not something else. Guilty until they prove themselves innocent. And who better to monitor that than a tax organization, with little or no brewing knowledge? Since distilled spirits are taxed at a much higher rate, they’ll have no incentive whatsoever to act fairly.

This, of course, is just a symptom of the larger problem which is people trying to legislate their preferences with some sort of eye on the "common good". In California's case the do gooders were trying to reduce drink choices because young folks supposedly enjoy sweet fruity drinks and older folks only enjoy bad tasting foul smelling goat urine.

In Kansas City's case the do gooders are trying to force owners of private property to molest their guests over their guests' choice to use a legal product, cigarettes. Unfortunately, about 15 years ago some scientists came up with the idea of secondhand smoke and sold the alarmist media on the idea that secondhand smoke is as dangerous as the smoke monster that ate Eko.

As a result of this "science" the do gooders who were tired of paying extra dry cleaning bills decided 'hey, we can get those evil smokers to not smoke in our presence'. All of a sudden smokers were the new black people. Smoking started to get banned on airplanes, in the office and even defying logic, in outdoor sports stadiums. Well, that wasn't enough for these people. They wanted to go to bars too, and not smell the smoke. And instead of patronizing bars and restaurants that forbid smoking, they wanted to the ones that didn't care if their patrons smoked. Instead of writing a letter to the business owner or asking for a manager to complain to, they went to their city councilman, alderman or county council and wanted them to take the choice away from business owners. This trend has spread across the country and now it's right here on KC's doorstep.

These people aren't trying to ban public smoking because they're concerned about anyone's health, they're doing it because it bugs them to be in a smoky room. Sure they'll say they care about the poor bartender's health, but they don't care. If they cared about people's health they would advocate banning alcohol sales in a bar. Drunk driving kills more people every year than second hand smoke ever has or will.
Australian medical researcher Raymond Johnstone looked at epidemiological data and determined that the rate of death from cancer among the wives of non-smoking men was 6 per 100,000. The rate of death among the wives of smoking men was 8 per 100,000. That means that the absolute risk of cancer due to the kind of prolonged exposure to secondhand smoke endured by a spouse is 1 per 50,000.

Now if you’re an alarmist, you’d phrase that statistic like this: “SECONDHAND SMOKE CAUSES 33% MORE CANCER DEATHS.”

If you’re a realist, you’d phrase it as Johnstone does:

“The most one can say about the alleged link between passive smoking and lung cancer is that if there is one, the it is so small that it is difficult to measure it accurately and the risk, if any, is well below the level of those to which we normally pay attention.”

In the swell book The Tyranny of Health, Michael Fitzpatrick notes that you’re more likely to get cancer from eating Japanese seafood (six times more likely), drinking tap water (two and a half times more likely), or eating mushrooms (fifty percent more likely) than you are from being the nonsmoking spouse of a heavy smoker.

I don't hear these do gooders complaining about KC's tap water (Tony has been following KC's water infrastructure story) being a hazard. Of course they don't, the tap water doesn't make their clothes smell funny. What's worse, if you live in KC you don't have a choice what kind of tap water is in your house, but you do have a choice which businesses you wish to patronize.

If the concern is not people's health (even if the science was proven beyond a reasonable doubt, I would still be against banning smoking in bars) why don't we laugh these people out of the city? I don't like the smell of people getting perms but I'm able to concede that my opinion is probably less important than the person who is getting a perm. I don't like people ordering Bud Light in a bottle in a bar that has Bud Light on tap, but I'm OK with letting those people act like douches (in fact it's an important signaling system for me).

The reason that these laws keep getting passed is because most of us are non smokers and don't own our own business and don't really care if smokers and business owners are getting the shaft. A similar dynamic happened with segregation in the south after the Civil War. Most people were white and didn't really care about the rights of humans who weren't white.

So, human nature is what it is, we don't care about people's rights who aren't like us (why are we building a wall on the Mexico border and not on the Canadian border?). Let me appeal to some higher platitudes; freedom and capitalism. Give private property owners the right to decide who they want to serve and how they want to serve them. If you think that their choices are acceptable, patronize their business. If not, DON'T. Leave your letter writing to the people who are trying to give you choices (business owners) and not the people trying to take away your choices (government). As the saying goes "Smoking is healthier than fascism". When in the voting booth I always try to choose freedom, I hope you do too. When confronted with a do gooder who wants to limit your choices, I suggest you say "I prefer freedom, thanks".


  1. the ban on smoking will rule. I cant wait until it happens. I like to breath, it rules when I can. Your take on this is 100% wrong.

  2. One thing that is 100% RIGHT about your take is something I’ve been saying all along – this is NOT about health even one little bit. Never has been. Otherwise, casinos would not be exempted. Why are they exempted? Because they bring in craploads of revenue for the government—revenue that is now an indispensable part of their budget—and they know they would bring in less revenue if smoking was banned. This has been proven in the St. Louis area, where the casinos on the Illinois side took a 17% hit in year-over-year revenue after banning smoking. This is cold, indisputable data that is part of the public record. All the nebulous studies paid for by the non-smoking lobbies say bars won’t take a hit when the ban goes into effect, but they provide absolutely no real evidence of this. The fact that, given the choice, 95% of bars allow smoking should tell you this is not a financially positive development for bar owners.
    The biggest irritant for me is that the majority of people voting on this would never even walk into a bar.

  3. I agree that voters should get more votes on this issue if they actually go to a bar. My numerous votes would still be for the ban, but then again I've become a self centered bastard recently.

    I don't smoke so I don't care if people can smoke or not in a bar. I don't ride the bus, so I won't be voting for the bus tax. If someone created a bill mandating every bar must have 15 unique taps on hand, I'm voting for it.

  4. I don't give a shit what scientists say. A little smoke I can deal with. People shouldn't have to walk into a fog of funk when they simply want to go out and have a beer.

    That shit makes me cough and it stinks. If it was just a couple of assholes then hey I can deal with it. But now every Johnson County jackass that lights up runs to the Plaza and Westport to get their cig on which makes those businesses uninhabitable for the rest of us. But since you can’t legislate the number of smokers in a particular business I say fuck em all.

    I support a person’s right to smoke, I also support euthanasia. That doesn’t mean I want to watch it go down, or smell it. It doesn’t help that some smokers seem to be getting more aggressive lately. It’s their personal protest now to blow that shit in my face. How that helps their cause I will never know, but it’s not really a surprise considering their obvious self destructive personalities.

    In summary:
    Too many of ya’ll smoke.
    It stinks.
    I don’t enjoy coughing.
    Fuck ya.

    If you have the right to smoke then I have the right to NOT smell like ass.

  5. Jesus,

    Drink somewhere else. It's that simple. If the bar owner wishes to allow smoking, that is his right, it is his property.

    If you don't want to smell like smoke, don't go into a smoky room. Are we in 3rd grade? Can you really not control yourself?

    Thanks for proving my point though, that it's not about people's health, it's about the way your clothes smell. Good work Jesus.

  6. Whoa, you said, "Give private property owners the right to decide who they want to serve and how they want to serve them." Keep in mind, they had this patronage practice for over 100 years in the post-Civil War South. The trouble is, there was no place for the "Negroes" to go, in most cases.

    I think smokers and breathers can both be accommodated. Wild swings to either end of the spectrum tend to have a backlash, eventually.

    Just my $.02