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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Beer and Cigarettes

Not that this should become a public policy blog, but Gary Corbin has a rumination about whether Oregon ought to ban smoking in bars.
The ban on smoking in pubs is problematic in that it takes an admittedly evil – but LEGAL – product and behavior (smoking tobacco) and removes our right to choose to do it. And, to do it in a time and place long associated (even expected) with smoking: drinking. If we’re too chicken to ban it altogether, why ban it in the very place people want to do it most?

...The problem is that pesky second-hand smoke issue. Sure, non-smoking customers can go elsewhere, but not everyone can: employees, vendors, inspectors, et al.

Maybe the occasional visit of the vendor or inspector can be overlooked. One whiff won’t kill them. But not so the employees. Oh, sure, technically they can quit. But why should it be a choice between making a living – and dying?

Further, there’s an unequal power relationship between employers and employees. In short, employers have it, employees don’t. That’s especially true in the food service industry, which has never been (and probably never will be) unionized. Jobs are tenuous and competitive, pay is typically poor (except in swanky places), and stress is very high. I can attest to all of this with first-hand experience.
This is exactly where I always end up. I hate smoking bars. You can't breathe, the food and beer tastes worse, and when you get out of the building, you realize your clothes reek. But I always end up where Gary does--it would be fine if others wanted to, but what about the employees? I've never heard a solution to this problem, but he has a thought:
Why not a pub smoking tax? Establishments that allow smoking would pay a per-seat premium to the state for that privilege (funds to be used to pay for education and health programs related to smoking). Further I think smoking establishments should be required to provide full health insurance benefits to all employees, even part-timers, and maybe a wage premium, too.
I suspect most employees who work in smoking bars are smokers themselves--or don't mind. If we followed this solution, it might actually be a reasonable compromise. Anyone have thoughts?


  1. Requiring any combination of a tax on smoking pubs and/or providing employees full bennies would immediately amount to a smoking ban in bars. Might as well save the money that would be spent legislating these ideas and go for the ban, I guess.

  2. Wait, Oregon still allows smoking in bars? Bizarre. Nebraska banned it a few years ago, so did New York. It's been illegal in California for a long time. Hm.

    Some businesses lose business, some even close, but people adjust. They drink inside, go smoke outside, come back inside and drink some more.

  3. Few things go together as well as a good beer and a GOOD cigarette. As a long time home brewer and lover of good beers and good pubs, I have also discovered the pleasure of GREAT tobaccos and simple, inexpensive equipment to make my own custom cigs. With incredible flavors, many tobacco varietals, and wonderful aromas, if more made their own there would be far fewer complaining about the smells. Find us on blogger at customcigs!