Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Breske's bluster can't change facts about secondhand smoke

(cross post from dane101.com)

Sen. Roger Breske (D-Eland), has been on a roll lately. In the fight over whether or not Wisconsin should impose a smoking ban for all workplaces, including restaurants and bars, Breske has come out as the champion of the Wisconsin Tavern League. His arguments against a ban have been laughable at best, dangerous at worst.
"I think they're sticking their noses into everything," [Breske] said. "It's seat belts, it's helmets, you name it. Why does the government have to tell people what to do all the time? I just can't believe this is what we're here for. We should be doing something decent, like helping people to try to find jobs."

Breske dismissed the potential health threat posed by second-hand smoking as "hogwash," adding, "I was born and raised in a bar since I was that high, and I was tending bar since I was that high (holding hand four feet above the ground.) And there was only one light bulb in the bar. There was no fans, and everyone smoked. It was blue in there. Come on, I'm still alive, and I'm 69 years old. It's sickening."
Screw public health then, eh Roger? Seat belts are government interference in our God-given right to be thrown through car windshields and smashed into trees! Helmets are government interference in our right to have our brains splattered all over the pavement!

Who elected this guy, and was he this crazy during his campaign?

I'm no fan of a Big Brother government, but there are certain basic human rights that cannot be left to the whims of individuals, companies or towns: things like a person's right not to have cancer-causing smoke blown in their face while they work to make a living, possibly in the only job in the area they could get.

So what I'm left wondering now is whether Breske is just a little loopy or if he's both loopy and in the pockets of the anti-smoking ban interest groups? It might also be worth noting that the Tavern League lists both R.J. Reynolds and Altria as "Affiliated Associations." R.J. Reynolds owns several cigarette brands, and Altria is the parent company of Philip Morris, just in case that wasn't clear. I don't suppose there's any vested interest there in scewing the facts in order to thwart a statewide smoking ban? And maybe it's paranoid to think that the Tavern League and its "affiliates" are pretty cozy with one another's best interests.

The fact remains, no matter how many anti-ban activists might have you believe otherwise, that secondhand smoke has been definitively linked to causing lung cancer and other ailments in those people who're exposed to it, regardless of whether or not they've ever personally smoked a cigarette in their lives. This applies to both restaurant and bar patrons (not all of whom go there just to smoke, by the way) and to those people working in those places.

The common argument is that by banning smoking in all work places, you'll be forcing many of those businesses to shut down, thus harming those waiters and bartenders you profess to want to protect. But riddle me this: just how many establishments have been forced to close based solely on economic downturn as a result of the Madison smoking ban? The Tavern League would like us to believe that the number is at least 12, even providing us with this handy list of names.

However, what they fail to do is account for other factors that may have led to some of these closings. Madhatters, for instance, was located in the University Square building that was demolished to make room for a whole new development. Bennett's "Smut n' Eggs" on the Park was pretty much a hole-in-the-wall. Kimia Lounge had been having financial troubles for awhile. In the end, it's mighty presumptuous to claim that the smoking ban was the main cause of these closings, while ignoring the fact that businesses come and go all the time. In a capitalistic society, that's the natural way of things.

What anti-ban types also fail to think about are the medical expenses incurred by employees of smoking establishments if and when the various secondhand-linked ailments begin to take hold. "They could just quit if they don't like it!" goes the argument. Sure, they're free to quit, but a lot of people holding down jobs as waiters or bartenders are doing so because they have to. Maybe there aren't any smoke-free workplaces in the area that'll hire them, or where the hours and pay will support their needs. Maybe it's what they're most qualified to do. Maybe they love the work. Ultimately, there are regulations in place to ensure that employees are treated fairly and safely in the workplace. Constant exposure to secondhand smoke is dangerous and should be regulated the same way that exposure to any other carcinogen is. So either start buying your workers gas masks, or just get rid of the source all-together.

I'd advocate the same course of action for Mr. Breske, who'll be up for reelection this year.


Anonymous said...

Please recall for us any time you have been FORCED to go into a public building or business where smoking was permitted. People enter businesses voluntarily, either to transact business or to seek employment. No one is forced to go into any business. Why do you thibk the Madison bureaucrats know bettr how to run any business than the people who own and operate those businesses? You seem to be a reasonably intelligent person. If you don't like tobacco smoke, don't go where people smoke.

Emily said...

I do understand where you're coming from, but I still don't think the argument holds water unless we're talking about a private club that allows smoking.

1) I'm a musician, and play and sing in several bands. Part of the deal with being a musician is to play out at various bars, clubs, etc. So no, I'm not being forced to do this, but it's part of my life and live music often brings more business in for these establishments. Back before the Madison ban, I often had trouble singing without coughing and my throat closing up. Plus I hate coming home smelling like a chimney.

I've never smoked a cigarette in my life, mind you.

Plus, what kind of business has carcinogens wafting visibly through the air? Under all other circumstances, that sort of thing is highly regulated and/or banned. Again, either you start issuing your employees gas masks or you get rid of the hazard all together.

Al said...

"Who elected this guy" is the most (or if nothing else, the second most) Republican district to still elect a Democrat to the State Senate. Now, does he have to be so over the top about it, no, but going against the smoking ban probably helps him in his district.

Anonymous said...

Why should the 80% who do not smoke not be able to go into a business, or seek employment in that business because the owner allows toxins and carcinogens to be realeased inside it. It's not as if tobacco smoke is a necessary product of anything being produced. Smokers go outside for smoke breaks at work, and some even go outside of their own home because of health concerns for other family members. They're also the ones doing the polluting. Why shouldn't they be the ones to go out for the sake of everyone else's health?! Anything else makes no sense at all!

The Lost Albatross