Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Bizarro is brought to you today by A Good Read.

As many of my readers know, I'm not a fan of many of America's anti-smoking laws and I can honestly say that I'd hold the same opinion even if I didn't smoke. Quite frankly, blanket bans on public smoking verge on fascism. It proposes no health risk whatsoever to smell someone's cigarette, cigar or pipe as it wafts by in an unenclosed space. None. You could smell smoke in a public park every day for a thousand years and not get cancer. Tobacco smoke is not cyanide gas.

Allowing merchants to ban smoking in their establishment is fine. But to ban it in all buildings, regardless of the preferences of the owner, manager, or patrons is ridiculous. Why can't a bar owner in NYC decide for himself if he wants to allow smoking? No one is required to be in a bar. Proponents of these laws say that it exposes the employees to a health risk. First, the health risk of breathing second-hand smoke on the job is negligible, far less than eating meat and dairy. Second, no one is required to work there.

In California (and some other places) you can't smoke within 25 feet of a building. For those of you outside of California, this isn't a joke, they're actually protecting the health of bricks and masonry. This law is clearly nothing more than a vendetta against a habit that some people find unappealing.

There are plenty of habits I find unappealing, if I can get enough people behind me, does it make sense in a free society to ban them? I love music but hearing music that I did not choose to listen to at that moment bugs the crap out of me, for instance: In cars, stores, restaurants, taxis, nightclubs, you name it. Nine times out of ten it is something I do not have on my iPod and I can honestly say that it annoys me as much as smelling smoke annoys other people. I'm sure there are other people who feel the same way, shall we outlaw all music that is audible to more than the person who chose to play it?

I don't like ugly clothing or hairstyles, either. Let's ban them in all public buildings and within 25 feet of doorways. And in public parks and on beaches, too. Soda pop and junk food also disgust me and are as clear a long-term health risk as is smoking. Out you go. And don't get me started about some people's accents. A nasally southern twang makes me want to jump in front of a train.

I'm guessing that most people don't share my view and some may claim democracy and say the majority wins. But that's not really what a free society is about. It means we're all free to do what we choose if it isn't injuring others. An odor we find unpleasant isn't really injury, it's momentary inconvenience, as it is with music, ugly hairdos and twangy nose-talkers.

Mind you, I don't think smoking bans will ever be repealed, I'm just whining.


Unknown said...

This is the first time that I will say this to your blog: YOU ARE AN IDIOT. Second Hand Smoke can cause cancer, especially to those that cannot control where they may inhale it (like an employee or a baby). I agree that bars should be able to choose if they wish to allow smoking or not, because you can choose to go into a bar as an adult. But malls, offices, and various other buildings would be subject to the authority of some other idiot like yourself who thinks that second hand smoke isn't harmful. Check out more by searching on the interwebs or just click here:

johann said...

lets start outlawing bad body odor....

Cybergoulion said...

Well I can help you by offering the opposite point of view.
I live in Greece and I am not a smoker. That does not make me an antismoker I just don't smoke and never made a fuss about it. Last summer we passed a law that forbids smoking in public places such as bars, clubs and restaurants. But the law had many "special cases", specificaly allowing smoking if the owner chose so, in places less than 70 square meters (750 square feet or something). Most of them that is. Guess what most of the owners chose. If you had to decide if you want all your customers or half of them what would you decide? Anyway in my country we are not so keen on enforcing "restricting" laws (and you probably hear the results every day), so that law soon stopped being enforced. But it had on more side effect. Before that if I asked someone politely to point his smoke away he tried to do so. Now if I do that I am just a fascist antismoker scumm! And it is not that easy to choose a place witch is smoke-free if you have a mixed smoker non-smoker company. Believe me, the short time this was enforced, there was times me and 4 or 5 other people was enduring the hot summer sun instead of being inside in the A/C because we had one smoker with us (until we dumped him).
Oh and while I agree with your examples at the end, it's not an exact analogy. If I enjoyed spitting, it probably isn't such a great health risk if I spit on you. Unless it is on an open wound or your mouth and nose that is. But I suspect you might not be so comfortable with me exercising me right to spit in this case. You could cartoon this and see the reaction btw.

Unknown said...

As a matter of fact, there is cyanide in cigarette smoke, but not as much as there is carbon monoxide. For people like me with emphysema [from a car wreck, not smoking] second hand smoke is assault, even without an oxygen tank. If you think about it, our lungs are oxygen tanks and polluting them is just wrong. There are much less intrusive ways of getting your nicotine fix and a wonderful herb, Feverfew, that does the same thing to capillaries as nicotine without being addictive. Let's not even go to what Freud said cigars represent!

Beirti said...

Hmmmm. I'm a smoker too Dan but I gotta say that I respect the smoking laws. Smoking ain't healthy, I accept that I'm damaging myself but I'd never expect anyone else to suffer because of my bad habits. No, people aren't forced to work in bars but they shouldn't be excluded from working in an environment which isnt' healthy

Pies said...

I've quit buying and just mooch cigs off of friends at parties and such, but I'm with you on this one. Luckily our government didn't manage to outlaw smoking in all public places, just at public buildings.

Then again, public nudity is not physically harmful to other people either, but I'm not sure I'd like to see it being legal.

Ssteppe said...

I respectfully disagree. I was filling in for a band years ago, and several of the guys were heavy smokers. On the chartered bus, there was no escaping the smoke. I was always the first off and last on at stops.
When I got home late at night after many hours on the bus over the weekend, I dumped all my clothes in the washing machine, took a shower, shampooed my hair, etc. When I got out of the shower, I was STILL smelling smoke. It had penetrated the band on my watch, which I ended up throwing out. I vowed never to get on a bus with smokers again.
Maybe I'm more sensitive to smoke than others, but I resent even having to walk through the cloud of smoke out in front of a building that bans smoking.

James said...

"But that's not really what a free society is about. It means we're all free to do what we choose if it isn't injuring others."

Dan, I don't always agree with your political points, but THANK YOU for speaking this wonderful piece of common sense.

Eben said...

"...the health risk of breathing second-hand smoke on the job is negligible, far less than eating meat and dairy."

I'm not disputing your claim, but I'd like to see your evidence. Everything I've read about the subject suggests the opposite. I'm not claiming that my sources are unbiased, but I would like the opportunity to evaluate the source of your claim for myself.

" Second, no one is required to work there."

I'm surprised to hear such a Libertarian sentiment from you, to be honest. Are you similarly against minimum wage laws? Occupational safety regulations? Laws that limit the amount of time someone can work before the employer is required to pay overtime rates? It seems to me that you aren't, so it boggles me that you'd take such a stance when it comes to smoke.

Plan 9 Studios said...

Technically we're more of a Republic than a Democracy, which is why over 50% of people can support gay marriage, but the courts can still shoot it down.

Joakim Gunnarsson said...

I agree that you shouldn't be over protective, beeing afraid of everyting.
But ... smoking isn't good stuff. Smoking is harmful. It causes cancer. And passive smoking isn't good either. I had troubles going to bars until they became no smoking areas. Finally my eyes werent filled with tears every time I went into a room with smoke. And I could breathe. No smoking in bars finally menat that people allergic to smoke could socialize like everybody else. That's freedom for me. Not the other way around.

And I wonder how much money it cost the tax payers each year to treat those smoking cancer patients. Tax money whch could have been spent on people who didn't choose to kill themselves slowly.

Unknown said...

Mixed emotions at this.....
dont know what the hell to think !

Jonathan said...

Some of your points are good, but I'm not sure of some of your science. Aren't the carcinogenic components carried in the smoke? And if so, is it really true that being able to smell smoke doesn't equate to an increased risk? I'm just saying--actually, I think making smoking illegal outdoors is a bit much. But your "no one is required to work there" argument doesn't hold up. That could be used as an argument to support ANY unsafe workplace. "Oh, sure, our boilers explode every couple of weeks. But no one is REQUIRED to work here." There have been successful lawsuits linking exposure to heavy second-hand smoke with lung cancer in non-smoking employees (at least, I think there have--I'm not doing a lot of research to support my comments at the moment).

phardt said...

You know what else "proposes no health risk whatsoever"..? Me blasting a big greasy garlic fart right in your face. I'm glad to know that, because of your principles, you would support my "right" to do that!

Anonymous said...

"First, the health risk of breathing second-hand smoke on the job is negligible, far less than eating meat and dairy. Second, no one is required to work there."

Well, if there are jobs that require you to eat meat and drink dairy in order to stay employed, then perhaps we should consider bans on that.

However, the idea that nobody is required to work at an establishment is beside the point. People are desperate for work and they will take jobs with obvious and non-obvious risks. Second hand smoke is a non-obvious risk. We pass laws to protect employees from unnecessary risks all the time because the relationship between an employee and an employer is asymmetrical, weighed heavily in favor of the employer.

I'm sorry that not being able to smoke wherever you'd like inconveniences you. But lung cancer is a greater inconvenience.

Even without a link to lung cancer, I admit that I support smoking bans. I was tired of having to constantly "choose" to stay away from public places because some people with unhealthy addictions couldn't keep themselves from lighting up for a little while while in mixed company. It's nice to be able to go out without coming home smelling like somebody's ashtray.

Piraro said...

Thanks for all the comments, pro and con.

One thing I want to clarify is that I am NOT advocating smoking inside school buses or public buildings in general. My question was specifically about bar and restaurant owners being allowed to accommodate smoking if they chose. I doubt anyone would argue that in the amount of time that most employees work at bars or restaurants, they are going to contract cancer. It's like saying you'll become obese if you eat a candy bar once a day for a month.

Also, while second-hand smoke has been shown to "increase risk" of cancer, what does that really mean? If (hypothetically) one in a million non-smokers get cancer and second-hand exposure increases your risk tenfold, that's still only 10 out of a million. Not very significant. Anyone know the actual numbers?

Lastly, I am NOT saying there is NO risk in second-hand smoke. I'm saying that the risk of disease from passing smokers OUTDOORS is negligible if not non-existent.

Another lastly, while smoking is obviously linked to lung cancer, most smokers never get cancer. It is a long-term risk in certain circumstances and people. It isn't a poison that will kill anyone exposed to it however briefly, as ad campaigns have (understandably) led us to believe.

Jean said...

Wow. I'm guessing you've never worked in a restaurant. When I was eighteen, I got a job at the only restaurant in the area that would hire me so I could pay my college tuition. I HATE the smell of smoke and always have, so I'd always be disgruntled when placed into the smoking section (and no, you couldn't ask to be moved. that was not a right we had). I worked 6-10 hour shifts, and if you think that breathing in smoke non-stop for 6-10 hours several days a week isn't harmful to your health, you're nuts. I went home everyday not just reeking of smoke, but I had TERRIBLE sore throats and felt a bit nauseous as well. Every day I worked smoking. Without exception. I rejoiced when the law was passed in my state to ban smoking in restaurants. Finally I could pay for my college tuition without risking my health.

You really, really just sound like another one of those pissy smokers who can't admit that their problem isn't just killing themselves, it's harming others as well.

moresby said...

How about taking off the lung cancer blinders and considering the many other diseases caused by smoking?

p.s. you are still the cartoonist dearest to my heart. If that isn't too creepy-sounding.

Unknown said...

I have been unable to rid myself of the desire to see the drawing for June 29th. Did you skip it to teach me a lesson?

Dave Wyble said...

Given the amount of money the tobacco companies have to throw around, it is virtually impossible to find an unbiased study on either side of this issue. The simple fact is that most people on the street believe that second hand smoke is dangerous. And it would be political suicide for an elected official to campaign on the side of opening up smoking laws. Smokers have long been that taxable punching bags; witness the latest $1.60/pack tax increase in NY.

BTW: I'm not a smoker, and regardless of the science I believe all the laws should be in place.

Piraro said...

@Steve...I usually post my cartoons about a week later, so I haven't gotten to that one yet.

Anonymous said...

Boy, Mr. Piraro, you really seem to have bothered a lot of people with your blog post here. I guess you're used to it from years of being a smoker. I just want to make two points.

1. "I can honestly say that it [music in public] annoys me as much as smelling smoke annoys other people." You're certainly not including the people who have asthma or have some other allergic reaction to smoke, are you? I realize that some people have really sensitive ears and might react that way to music, but that's not what you said. You said you're specifically annoyed by music as much as other people are by smoking.

2. "If (hypothetically) one in a million non-smokers get cancer and second-hand exposure increases your risk tenfold, that's still only 10 out of a million. Not very significant." Assuming that you're referring to America and that most people have been exposed to second hand smoke, your "not very significant" second hand smoke just caused 2781 people (the U.S.A's population is about 309 million) to get a serious illness, and many of them would die. My point is that your imaginary statistics are still very bad, even though they sound okay...

But, statistics aside, are you really okay with it if even one additional person dies a horrible death because of your addiction and selfishness? You talk like smoking should be a right, but your comic is not accurate. It wasn't invented by cavemen. People have lived without tobacco smoking for longer than they've lived with it. And now, we humans have decided to kick this habit. Get with it.

Anonymous said...

Andrew Vachss, in one of his dark crime novels, writes something like "I stepped into a doorway to light a cigarette. A woman gave me a dirty look and walked on by, trailing a wake of enough cologne to gag a coroner."

Barbara said...

Oh Dan, I love you but I have to agree with Marcus.
My mother-in-law used to visit a restaurant everyday for lunch with her friends, (we called them the Granny Gang). Anyway, she developed a cough that wouldn't go away. We took her the doctor, the doctor took X-rays of her lungs and told her to stop smoking. She had never smoked a day in her life! She's gone now due to, guess what . . . CANCER! Come on Dan, please.

Unknown said...

"I'm saying that the risk of disease from passing smokers OUTDOORS is negligible if not non-existent."

For my daughter with asthma, passing through someone's smoke can cause her to have an asthma attack. Then she has to use her inhaler, which may make her breathing regulate, but has the side effects of making her feel shaky and weird for several hours. It's not fun.

"But that's not really what a free society is about. It means we're all free to do what we choose if it isn't injuring others."

It is injuring others. That's the whole point. I used to avoid going to bars because I would come home sneezing, with red, itchy eyes, and smelling like an ashtray. It's so nice to be able to go out and not have to worry about that any more, not to mention the damage that it could have been doing to my lungs. It should be my choice to expose myself to that, and I sometimes do. When drunk enough, that is.

Anonymous said...


Erich said...

The smoking bans (neo-prohibition) have come about mainly because of one reason, odor. The smell of smoke. If eating to many cheetos or drinking to many beers carried an odor that stuck to the clothes of those nearby there might be an effort mounted under the pretense of health concerns to eliminate public consumption of many things. I am not saying that there aren't risks with smoking, what I'm saying is lets knock off the hypocrisy of defending anti-smoking because of health concerns.(Hypocrisy by definition is in this case 'acting' as though its about health issues) I enjoy a good cigar now and then and I'm completely comfortable partaking in a environment that doesn't impose on others.
I think smoking establishments should require a license (like liquor)and be clearly marked as a smoking friendly environment. That way everyone has a CHOICE as to how they wish to relax.
I'm completely fine with no smoking in food establishments and indoor public spaces. But if a barkeep wants to provide a good brew and a place to enjoy my favorite Corojo, this should be allowed.

Gabi said...

Dan, you do know that there are no bricks in California, 'cuz they'd crumble like sand in an earthquake? Everything there is artificial wood, actual wood, or steel.

Unknown said...

We readers who enjoy your strip enough to come to this blog feel as if we are smart and cool enough to be included in your in-jokes. When we see you with a cigar stuffed in your gob it makes us wonder if we really want to be in at all, knowing everything we know about smoking.

Allan Koay said...

hey, Mr Piraro, like the other commentor, i also think you're "another one of those pissy smokers who can't admit that their problem isn't just killing themselves, it's harming others as well." LOL

my mother worked in a smoke-filled restaurant for years, until she got lymphoma and had to quit. she has survived cancer, thankfully, and is fully recovered. but i will forever believe that it was secondhand smoke that caused her ailment.

Elder Geek said...

I have never smoked, but I do not appreciate the way society is treating smokers.

Increasing taxes on tobacco to pay for any hairbrained thing they want to spend money on, knowing that smokers will bear that burden instead of quitting. Then forcing them outside, and down the street.

Here in Oregon business owners can be fined if you smoke within 10 feet of an entrance of a building. Effectively what this means is that if you operate a business in Oregon, you are an agent of the state of Oregon to police smokers. I started a business because I wanted to make money, do the kind of work I like and to do something that is beneficial to others. I did not go into business to to police smokers and tell them they are 9 inches to close to the front door of my business.

Once 80% or more of adults smoked and non-smokers really did not have rights to not deal with smoke. They had the freedom to not smoke and go anyplace they wanted to do what they wanted to do. The scales are tipping. What will happen when 80% of adults don't smoke? What kind of rotten laws will we force down their throats? Will they have to get a permit to draw a 6x6 chalk outline 25 feet from their house and will only be allowed to smoke there? Will tobacco only be available by a Doctors prescription?

Folks, it has not yet begun to get ridiculous. Which is just plain sad that common sense is not prevailing in this situation.

Doug said...

The Heather Crowe Campaign was highly influential in Canada. Heather was a waitress for 40 years. Workers Compensation recognized her cancer as work-related. Dan, we can't all choose the places we work. Everyone deserves a safe workplace.

Free2Dump said...

I'm with you, but I don't think it should only be smokers whose rights are protected. Like our ancestors for millions of years, and like nearly every other animal, I enjoy pooping outdoors. I don't have any kind of Giardia or pathogenic E. coli, and I certainly don't have polio (as if!). It poses no health risk whatsoever to smell a healthy person's stool, turd, or dump as it wafts by in an unenclosed space.
And for that matter, why can't a bar owner allow people to poop on the floor? It's his (or her) bar, isn't it? Oh, right, the employees and their health and sanitation concerns. Well, it's not like they have to work there -- they can just get better jobs, maybe writing Op-Eds at the Washington Post (which as far as I can tell requires no skills or intelligence) or the Weekly Standard, where the only feces they'll have to smell is the metaphorical kind that William Kristol produces. In any case, they should get better jobs.

Clearly, the only reason to oppress public poopers is control over society.

MikeTeeVee said...

The only legitimate reason to avoid secondhand smoke is whether or not it causes cancer?

Whether or not I might get cancer or any other disease in the future, exposure to tobacco smoke irritates my eyes and throat. It permeates my clothes. It overwhelms and ruins the taste of food. It's just plain obnoxious to be around.

It's not a like a comedian who can be obnoxious but funny. Tobacco smoke is just obnoxious for no benefit.

Smokers, by necessity, apparently become immune to these effects. Kind of like a drunk guy who doesn't realize he's drunk. Or a tone-deaf person who thinks their singing is lovely.

Being outdoors doesn't help much. Tobacco smoke can still be obnoxious from dozens of feet away if you're downwind. Or if you're trying to go through a door surrounded by smokers. Or if the smoke comes into the building as the door opens and closes.

I lived through the non-smoking transformation in California. I still remember when the "non-smoking" section was the one table where you were welcome to not smoke. Now I'm almost never subjected to smoke. It's wonderful.

To paraphrase an old saying, your right to smoke ends at my nose.

Russell Pirkle said...

I'm not at all offended by your blog post, but your unwillingness to admit that you're wrong, especially about the ethics of subjecting employees to secondhand smoke, offends me.
How can you expect people to admit that the things they're doing like eating meat or driving SUVs are wrong when you can't even admit that subjecting employees to 8-10 hours of cigarette smoke daily is wrong?

Your point of view doesn't bother me, your ignorance doesn't bother me, your smoking doesn't bother me, but I find your unwillingness to acknowledge the reasonable arguments against your point of view deeply disturbing. It seems to indicate that rather than a conscientious person who strives to understand, even if not always do, what is most ethical, you are the same sort of self-interested decision maker as a libertarian or a religious fundamentalist.
I still don't want to believe this about you. It's depressing. It's depressing to think that maybe the only reason you care about the environment is because you have a stake in it, and so on. But your failure to base your smoking stance on rational logic and your failure to acknowledge the rational logic of others and change your stance when presented with good reasons to do so makes it difficult to think of you as a person striving to at least discover what's right, even if not to always do what's right.
In conclusion, I think that as a blogger, it would make sense for you to answer the arguments presented here, and if you can't refute them, admit you are wrong and change your point of view as an example to others who hold wrong viewpoints. This isn't something you're obligated to do, but it surely would be nice.

Geosomin said...

I have asthma and I'm glad I can finally go out to restaurants and bars and clubs and not squeak or be sick the next day form the smoke. You have no idea how frustrating that is...if it's outside it's no big deal, but inside. Might aw well just cough all over me.

While I do agree that a restaurant or a bar should be able to decide whether they allow it or not, I have to say, I know I'm happier for it.

And I do hate to tell ya - second hand smoke *does* cause cancer.
I research cancer in a lab every day. If you want to voice an opinion - go ahead. I admire your humour and intelligence. Just don't make up untruths to support your cause.
It just negates your whole argument...

Mchl said...

25 feet from the building? I'm moving to California ASAP. Then I can perhaps relax in MY own home having MY window open and not having to inhale my neighbour's tobacco fumes.

I know what smokers will say to that: you can move away, wherever there are no smoking neighbours.

The point is: they seem to be coming after me! (I am paranoid, yes)

Wolf Windshadow said...

You obviously love to smoke, the byproduct of your pleasure is second hand smoke, it gets into my hair and clothing and makes me stink, and into my lungs and makes me sick... I like good beer, the byproduct of my pleasure is urine, so I suppose it is 100% ok if I stand on the bar and urinate all over you and your smoke? see how much sense you make?

Tax Deductible Donation said...

I'm not a smoker, have several family members that do smoke and can see valid points on both sides. I personally don't like the smell of the smoke and hate that the smell clings to my clothes, hair and car. BUT, I do feel sorry for smokers who literally are being forced to endure the elements so they can smoke their cigs..... Realistically, this topic will probably be argued for many years to come.