It will be apparent to you from the first few paragraphs that I'm a smoker. With that being said, I was still vehemently opposed to Duluth's smoking ban when it was first crafted last summer, even while I was in the middle of an extensive "vacation" from smoking. I've seen the anti-smoking coalition in action, and their mood and tactics should scare the hell out of anyone who has a stake in personal freedom. What they "accomplish" now is only a beginning. Eventual prohibition of smoking everywhere is their goal. Count on it.
Having had considerable experience as a non-smoker, I can attest that the smell of smoke is a turn-off. Didn't like it in my hair or on my clothes. But that was an aesthetic issue to me. It never was a health issue. I've taken the time to dissect the studies simply because I don't automatically believe everything my Government tells me. It's wise to question, wise to research. The studies have some serious problems and flaws, and the E.P.A. has simply picked out the parts of the results which support what they wanted the studies to show; which is that second hand smoke is dangerous. Having realized that the dangers are so minimal (if they exist at all) as to be laughable, my only honest objection to smoking could be that of aesthetics. You can't legislate aesthetics, otherwise we could go after those with bad breath, bad teeth, women with facial hair, those with objectionable body odor.
It was no big surprise that the Duluth City Council would respond to an unenforceable ordinance by toughening and expanding the ban. This is exactly what happened on May 29. A few thoughts before I delve into the "meeting" or railroad if you prefer:
1. This was a done deal before the meeting convened. No concerns which the hospitality industry had were going to make a shred of difference. Sure, they went through the motions of asking various questions of the hospitality representatives; it made the Council look objective and created the illusion of both sides being considered before they acted. They did have the option of scraping the existing ban, but there was no way the votes were there to do that. The anti-smokers knew it, the pro-freedom folks knew it, the City Council knew it.
2. Despite what they claim, the Duluth City Council is not pro-business. This ordinance proves it. It's bad for business as has been proven from sales tax receipts from restaurants and has been claimed by restaurant owners. Their concerns have been clear, and have been ignored.
3. It was reported that the anti-smoking gang set it up so that they would be the last people to speak during the open speaker segment of the meeting. They acted in concert and signed up after they knew the known pro-freedom speakers had signed up. Which proves that they are (at least as of now) far better organized than those who are pro-freedom.
4. Each speaker is supposed to have equal say in these meetings. But the introduction of so-called "experts" preceded by the word "doctor" gave a clear impression that these people had more value and their words should carry more weight.
Okay, now on to an analysis of the meeting. Some comments on what was said during the meeting are in order. Apologies to anybody who has their name misspelled; I obviously didn't have access to the list of speakers.
1. David Ross represented the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and the hospitality industry. His only request was that they be involved in crafting an ordinance which would work and wouldn't hurt restaurant business in Duluth. He came under some fire for this, primarily from Councilors Lynn Fena and Ken Hogg. Hogg's primary objection was that the hospitality group had the time to have their voice heard. But here is the problem with Hogg's comments; the hospitality group had spoken out, and were subsequently drowned out by the anti-smoking coalition. Nothing less than total victory would suffice to the "antis". Whatever concerns the hospitality group had were not going to be given consideration by the six members of the City Council who eventually voted in favor of the most oppressive ban on this night.
2. Scott Carlson spoke next, representing County Lanes North (a Duluth bowling center) and the bowling industry. His primary concern was what the ban against smoking in bowling centers would do in general, and specifically what the ban would mean toward County Lanes North getting the State Women’s Tournament to come to Duluth in 2003. This was a special problem to his bowling center, given that Skyline Lanes (which is in Hermantown, just a few miles north or C.L.N.) would be a serious option for league bowlers at C.L.N.
Councilor Hogg had some problems here with the state tournament and bowling tournaments in general with how they are run. "Five month tournament?" he asked. "But it's not a league but a tournament", he further queried. Uh, yeah, Ken, do the math. 10,000 bowlers in the 24-lane house bowling only on weekends. Okay, so maybe Ken isn't a bowler and isn't well versed on how large-scale tournaments are run.
Councilor Gary Eckenberg asked if there was no framework whereby a smoking ban would ever be acceptable to the bowling industry. "Very difficult if it's a local ordinance, if it's a statewide ordinance I think it would be acceptable", was Scott's reply. "Well, we're not going to have a statewide ordinance", Gary shot back.
3. Here's one problem I have with the rhetoric of the anti-smokers. They speak of this ordinance creating a "level playing field". Excuse me, but how does having smoking allowed in the cities bordering Duluth create a level playing field in Duluth with their all-inclusive ban?? Give me a freaking break. They don't get it. And don't want to get it.
4. Several speakers spoke out not about second-hand smoke (which is the alleged reason for the ban), but about the dangers of primary smoke. While I understand and agree with the dangers of primary smoke, allowing these people to speak about something outside of the ordinance was totally inappropriate. There is a difference between primary smoke and second-hand smoke. Naturally, the antis want to blur this line. The reason for those speakers being there was to elicit an emotional response from the Council. It had no part in this meeting.
5. "Cigarettes kill" spewed forth the first speaker. Duh!! So does alcohol, eating fatty foods, walking down dangerous streets at night. What the f*** does this have to do with the second-hand smoke issue? Answer; nothing.
6. Dr. Larson (see what I mean about the introduction of speakers as doctors?) also spoke out about the need to enforce and penalize offenders of the ban. She stated that the 80% of people who don't smoke avoid smoking restaurants. Nice lie there, lady. "Any law with no enforcement is worthless", she stated. Yep, and some laws with enforcement are worthless. You need a quick primer on the Drug Wars in America to show this? Not to mention laws against drunk driving, when some folks are out there drinking and driving, endangering my life and the lives of others, after their seventh DWI. Yet another pointless speaker.
She also claimed that non-smokers pay higher health care premiums because of smokers. Really? There have been studies that show smokers actually are a smaller burden to the health industry. At the risk of being crass, they die sooner. Those non-smokers who live to 95 in a nursing home for their last 20 years aren't a burden? Silly me.
But again, her comments had nothing to do with second-hand smoke and were clearly off-topic.
7. Mabel Galvin came forth next, speaking from "the heart" about her family history of cancer. I sympathize, but this once again has nothing to do with exposure to second-hand smoke in restaurants.
8. Next up was Chris Hill from Jim's Hamburgers on Fourth Street, voicing considerable concern about the effects of the current ban on her restaurant. She was also concerned that those places that had received exemptions were hurting her business, which had nearly but not quite qualified for an exemption. Interestingly, her place is right near St. Mary's hospital, yet non-smokers hadn't flocked to Jim's Hamburgers for their clean air. What happened to the claim of the anti-smokers that their lot would go to non-smoking restaurants? You mean....they were wrong? LOL
9. Terry Clark was next up, and spouted off the usual "dangers of smoking" tripe. He claimed new information about smoking that had come forth during the past six months. He referred to California's ban and the results of that ban. Now, there are some problems comparing California to Duluth. Mainly, those in the largest metros in Cali (L.A., San Fran, Fresno, San Diego, Sacramento, etc.) don't have the option of traveling to the closest state (Nevada or Arizona) to visit restaurants that allow smoking. So, the contention that the ban has not hurt business in California cannot be extrapolated to what the effects of the ban are in Duluth, for obvious geographic reasons. It's the difference between a five-mile drive and a 200+ mile drive, for those antis who are map-challenged. Thus, any attempt to cite information of the effect of a ban in California as evidence this wouldn't be a killer in Duluth restaurants has no value.
And once again, he spoke out about primary smoking, and did not address the flawed studies regarding second-hand smoke. Another pointless and inappropriate speaker. And the case of the Australian non-smoking worker who contracted throat cancer, with the obvious belief that this was a result of second-hand smoke, is a case where the cause was simply not proven. Only stated by the anti-smokers and believed by other antis because, well, anti-smokers don't lie!
10. Other doctors came forth, and their comments aren't worthy of mention; they followed the same script of "smoking kills, and you can't have our good folk exposed to second-hand smoke". Blah blah blah. Personal testimony is designed to elicit an emotional response, but doesn't begin to address the issue of whether second-hand smoke is dangerous.
11. In the midst of the antis approaching the speaker podium and blathering about the dangers of primary smoke, pretending that there is a connection to second hand smoke, Paul Goeb from Stadium Lanes made an appeal to the Council. He passed out a letter from the Executive Director of the Minnesota State Bowling Association whereby they probably would not look at Duluth as a venue for their state tournament if they had a smoking ban in the centers. He also got information from the city sales tax office that showed that revenues for restaurants had taken a sharp drop in January 2001 (the first month of the smoking ban). In conjunction with rising costs to do business, restaurants had shown a drop of 6% in revenues, in spite of rising prices. Now, you can ignore the detrimental effect of the ban and point to rising prices as the reason for the drop in gross revenue, or you can see the numbers for what they truly mean; the ban has hurt Duluth restaurants. Period.
Paul gave factual evidence of how the ban has hurt Duluth, but as was made clear later, the City Council wasn't interested in how businesses were hurt. Huh, I thought Duluth was a pro-business city? Guess I was wrong.
He also addressed the question from the Council on why the hospitality industry hadn't talked to the City Council sooner. His reason was very telling for those who don't already understand the mindset of the anti-smoking mob; he was in the meetings and the antis wouldn't talk to the hospitality group because they "already had the City Council". Very true. Hell, the antis had the votes on the Council and they knew it. Why would they negotiate based on this?
12. Mary Christiansen (representing Jim's Hamburgers from Lincoln Park) spoke out against the ban, citing a serious loss in revenue for her establishment. Her comment about Superior restaurant owners being happy with a Duluth ban and the increased business they had received was most interesting. She also took the time to point out that Councilor Eckenberg (who "represents" her area) did not approach her on how the ban had or would affect her business. He also did not solicit any input from her on the ban. Maybe he didn't want to hear the downside of what the ban has meant or would mean?
13. Eric Peterson claimed that "no one disputes the fact that second hand smoke is dangerous". Wrong, Eric, the links provided below will provided vivid contention. But you can just claim those web sites are sponsored by Big Tobacco and go on believing your delusion anyway, okay?
He also parroted the "level playing field" cliche, but I've already responded to this. Having smoking in Hermantown, Proctor, Esko and Superior restaurants while Duluth eateries are smoke-free is not a level playing field. What part of this are the antis having such difficulty grasping??
14. Peggy Merrin's contention that the reaction to the ban was solely the result of addict response was way out of line. Not every business owner who is against the ban is a smoker. Many are not. Get over yourself, Peggy. Self-importance is not a good look for anyone.
15. David Taylor was "stunned" that the Executive Director of the Minnesota State Bowling Association would withhold the State Tournament from Duluth if bowling centers were smoke free. He used the phrase "blatantly unethical and unprofessional" to describe their statement. An anti-smoker using the word "unethical" is amusing, given the magnitude of their lies regarding second hand smoke. Yo, David, their decision is a business decision. Teams which have one or more smokers (which represents the majority of bowling teams) will not bowl in a tournament (or league, for that matter) held in a non-smoking center. This is their choice. You are familiar with personal choice, aren't you?
Mr. Taylor also hit the nail on the head (perhaps unknowingly) when he referred to the hospitality group as the "opponent". That's real good, let's put this thing into an "us vs. them" perspective. But it's very true. The true opposition, however, is on the side of the antis. Opposed to personal choice. Opposed to the concept of people, if they are concerned about second-hand smoke, simply staying away from businesses that allow smoking. Let's forget personal choice. Let's legislate this thing because people are so stupid they don't know how to stay away from perceived dangers. And if business is hurt as a result of this legislation, let's just call this "collateral damage", as a price that has to be paid in order to punish smokers. How else could it be?
16. Nothing that the other antis had to say was outside of their usual pat phrases, except for the individual (Dr. Pass) who claimed revenues in Duluth restaurants had gone up in 2001? Earth to Dr. Pass' brain: Paul Goeb already provided information that refutes your claim. Try a more obscure method of dishonesty next time.
17. Once the Council started debating the three resolutions on the table, it was clear a repeal of the current ban had no chance of happening. And it didn't. Councilor Edwards wanted to table the ordinance concerning the strongest ban in order to give time to study the legality and whether this could lead to lawsuits. Nobody would even put this forth as a motion. Eventually, it came down to the more extensive ban being considered, which after some pointless discussion, passed with the following Councilors voted in favor: Eckenberg, Gilbert, Fena, Hogg, Stewart and Ness. Those places that had received exemptions from the ban are allowed to continue allowing smoking until April 1, 2003. Pool halls and bowling centers will have the smoking ban extended to their businesses on the same date. Bar/Restaurant combinations are now also covered by the ban, 24 hours a day. Fines are now in place (up to $750) for those restaurants and bar/restaurant combos that allow smoking.
While I was driving around Duluth the other day, feeling my filings loosen and my car's suspension getting the hell beat out of it by the roughly 35 million potholes in Duluth's streets, I was primarily "overjoyed" that Duluth has its priorities straight. We have a myriad of problems in this city; closing of Office Depot less than a year after its much vaunted opening; violent crime fostered by gang members from Chicago, Detroit and the Twin Cities; a new Tech Village which has scant occupation and little hope of filling; rotten streets the like of which I've seen nowhere else. Glad they have expended so much energy "protecting" the public from an alleged danger based on junk science and mass hysteria on the part of the antis.
But a line from "The Year Of Living Dangerously" came to mind; "What then must we do?" as Billy typed over and over again on his typewriter.
What can smokers and supporters of freedom do? First of all, the hospitality group organized in force immediately following the passing of this ban (probably too late, in hindsight) and is circulating a petition to force a referendum in Duluth where the public can vote on the ordinance. You are strongly encouraged to sign this petition, if you live in Duluth, are a registered voter, and have voted in the past two years. It's time to let Duluthians decide this issue. However, it certainly appears the referendum will fail. The antis will organize even stronger and use whatever tactics they deem necessary (ethical or otherwise) to scare the citizens of this increasingly oppressive city into voting for the ban. Make no mistake here; antis see this thing as a moral issue. They just won't admit it, and would rather cloak it as a "health issue". That way, they can pretend to be working toward the better health of all concerned.
What else can be done? The City Council has made it clear that the concerns regarding loss of business by restaurant owners are not an issue. So why spend money in those establishments? If you are a smoker, Duluth doesn't deserve your business. Go outside the city limits to dine. If those businesses fail, then the responsibility will rightly fall on the shoulders of those Councilors who passed the ban.
Better yet, work to elect new councilors to replace the six who voted for the ban. Democracy works (at times). Let your vote be your voice.
Many letters to the editor in our local fish wrap (Duluth News Tribune) are strongly against the ban. One writer (Dan Hass) spoke out on the second hand smoke issue on June 4, citing specifically that there is no proven link between second hand smoke and lung cancer. Dan is to be commended for his pointing out exactly what the anti-smokers don't want you to know.
Not too surprisingly, the News-Tribune came out in favor of the ban on June 11 in their editorial. They bought into the lies; hook, line and sinker. Being alleged "journalists", you'd think they would take the time to check out how the studies were done and where the flaws lie. Maybe statistical analysis isn't their strong point. Objectivity certainly isn't.
Ironically, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported on the results of a study on June 7 that showed obesity is a greater health risk than smoking. So, before those anti-smokers who look like they've never met a meal they didn't like (i.e., they're fat!) spout off about the unproven dangers of second-hand smoke, they need to push aside their stomachs, look down at their plate, and realize they are a bigger burden to the taxpayers than smokers. Maybe we need a "Fat Ordinance" in Duluth (tic).
If the lie is repeated enough times and goes unchallenged, eventually people will believe the lie and accept it as truth. This site authored by David Hitt explores how the studies were done and what was wrong with them. Remember that these are the studies that concluded what the antis want you to buy in to!
Essays on the Anti-Smoking Movement contains an analysis on what the anti-smokers are up to. This web site draws a disturbing comparison between the oppression of smokers and persecution of Jews in Germany during the Hitler years. You'll think this is a helluva reach until you read and ponder this. Hopefully with an objective mind (ruling out most anti-smokers).
[ Back ]