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Smoke-free Virginia
February 19, 2009 2:49 PM   Subscribe

Despite being a tobacco state, Virginia lawmakers passed a smoking ban today. Their ban covers most restaurants and bars, but permits smoking in private clubs and in establishments that construct separately ventilated enclosed smoking rooms for patrons. You can follow the journey of the bill here.
posted by MaryDellamorte (54 comments total)

 
wow
posted by fuzzypantalones at 2:59 PM on February 19, 2009


About time.
posted by josher71 at 3:05 PM on February 19, 2009


Good news. I can't hear about smoking bans without thinking of weekend update:
Starting Martch 29th, Ireland will ban smoking in public places, including offices and pubs. The transition is expected to go smoothly, because the Irish are known for their easy-going tempers and their respect for authority.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:14 PM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Being a California boy, it seems odd to see smoking in public buildings, and smoking rooms in airports. I remember smoking sections in restaurants and vaguely remember a time when there was smoking on airlines. Never being a smoker, I have to say I enjoy it.

This might seem epic, but remember that the UK banned smoking in 2006, and has been enforced since July 1st 2007, following the ban in Ireland in 2004. The history of smoking bans is pretty interesting.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:17 PM on February 19, 2009


I live in Virginia, smoke, and had forgotten that there wasn't a ban already in place here.

Huh. Good news, though.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:17 PM on February 19, 2009


Grats VA. The city I live in has a smoking ban, and it's amazing being able to go out drinking and not come home reeking.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:26 PM on February 19, 2009


Well, guess it's finally time to quit smoking. And to pick up that parka for my trip to hell.
posted by thecaddy at 3:26 PM on February 19, 2009


How often do we look at a MeFi post and collectively say, "oh good!"?
posted by a robot made out of meat at 3:33 PM on February 19, 2009


See, y'know, I don't like these laws. I don't like them because I feel like they're more about saying "Tobacco bad!" and less about actual measurable health benefits.

Now, before the inevitable legion of talking points from the prohibitionist left starts, let me give an anecdote—I used to work covering rock bands for a local rag, and I had to go out to a lot of shitty, smoky bars. I'm a non-smoker, I'm allergic to smoke, I hated the smell and that my sinuses clenched tighter than a white man's ass listening to NWA.

But one of the local venues went ahead and put in massive smoke eaters instead of banning cigarettes, and y'know what? It worked. People could smoke right next to me, and I wouldn't notice it, because everything was being sucked upwards and spat outward. The DIY nerds who'd been behind the project noted that they had lower particulate matter readings than most non-smoking offices. And this was a dive bar. It was pretty sweet.

So I don't so much oppose smoking bans as think that they're the wrong way to go about this legislation. If you want to be fair, if your true aim is second-hand smoke and not just niggling smokers until they butt out, then legislate air quality based on how much pollution you can have indoors, and let business owners figure out how they want to solve that problem, rather than simply banning everything and diminishing the amount of choice people can have over the drugs they want to take.

(Incidentally, pot heads, laws like this will preclude ever having an American version of the Amsterdam coffeeshop experience.)
posted by klangklangston at 3:44 PM on February 19, 2009 [22 favorites]


Oh good nothing. These bans are among the finest examples of government hypocrisy. If you believe that the government wants people to quit smoking, then I've got several hundred million in tax revenue that says they don't. The public safety argument is a non-starter. If the government was so serious about our safety tobacco would just be banned. It's hard for me to take any of this political theater seriously.
posted by IvoShandor at 3:57 PM on February 19, 2009 [3 favorites]


In principle, I don't like these laws because I think this kind of rule shouldn't extend to private establishments that happen to be public accomodations. I think we'd be better off as a society if the majority that want smoking bans would stand up for themselves (like patriots) by talking to restaurant and bar owners and saying they'll drink or eat someplace else unless the establishment enacts such a ban (or builds adequate ventilation).

In practice, I like these laws, because I hate breathing cigarette smoke.
posted by bugmuncher at 3:59 PM on February 19, 2009


While were at it, can someone please ban diesel engines, they smell and I don't like breathing the fumes.
posted by IvoShandor at 4:02 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


The best part about the smoking ban in San Francisco is how you have to wade through an ankle-deep pile of cigarette butts to get through the door into the bar. It's a symbol of progress!
posted by padraigin at 4:05 PM on February 19, 2009


haters be damned, waking up the day after and having to put stinky stale cigarette smoke clothes back on sucks.
posted by youthenrage at 4:20 PM on February 19, 2009


waking up the day after and having to put stinky stale cigarette smoke clothes back on sucks

So wash them, you idiot.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:32 PM on February 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


you idiot

Sorry, cortex.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:33 PM on February 19, 2009


I'm happy to see this finally happen. I think smoking bans are basically inevitable, but it did seem like Virginia was going to be a holdout.
posted by darksong at 4:37 PM on February 19, 2009


Great! I don't know what this substance is that makes people go "whooooooo" and "owww" outside my apartment building on Friday and Saturday nights, leave their vomit on the tarmac for me to step in on the odd magical Saturday and/or Sunday morning, crash their cars, and get into long stupid pointless verbal sparring matches with their significant others that sometimes end with the arrival of the police (at two in the morning...sirens screaming), but hey, if we could also ban that shit, that would be great.

In fairness, I voted the nanny staters in every election since I moved to VA ('05), and pretty much knew this was coming. It's a side-effect of voting democratic, and -- to my mind -- not a terrific one, but you take the good with the bad. I'm happy this gives so many of you such prodigious boners, but I do hope that anti-smoking theater isn't the only thing on local government's agenda.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:40 PM on February 19, 2009


If the government was so serious about our safety tobacco would just be banned.

Because that worked so well with alcohol and other drugs. No, the better approach is taxation and harm reduction. Smoking bans in public restaurants are a form of the latter.
posted by jedicus at 4:42 PM on February 19, 2009


posted by youthenrage waking up the day after and having to put stinky stale cigarette smoke clothes back on sucks.

posted by Civil_Disobedient So wash them.


If you're not waking up and having to put on clothes that stink of a bar, you're not doing it right.
posted by mattdidthat at 4:55 PM on February 19, 2009 [8 favorites]


That other tobacco state, North Carolina, is working on similar legislation, even though "the Civitas Institute released a poll that claims the majority of North Carolinians want bar and restaurant owners to be able to set their own smoking policies." Two years ago they attempted to ban smoking in all restaurants but the bill was voted down.

I'm not a smoker but I do think some of these rules against smoking are ridiculous. Rex Hospital imposed a total ban last year that extends to their parking lot-- meaning you cannot go visit your dying spouse in the hospital and then sit in your car and smoke a cigarette. That is outrageous. How is sitting your car with the windows rolled up bothering anybody else? They claim that being a hospital they are concerned for everybody's health, but I have a sneaking suspicion the ban in the parking lot is to prevent employees from smoking on their break.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:58 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


BC did a broad smoking ban ages ago. Several years later the laws were relaxed a bit.

Turns out that once people had a taste of smoke-free eating and drinking, they didn't want to go back. Most establishments had bellyached about how evil the law was, and now see that profits are up and customers are thrilled.

Sometimes it takes a real hard push to get society to change for the better.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:29 PM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


In principle, I don't like these laws because I think this kind of rule shouldn't extend to private establishments that happen to be public accomodations.

Except I'm really irritated by the argument that you can "do anything you want" just because you happen to own your own place.

Private employers shouldn't have the right to force employees to inhale fatal cigarette smoke because it "makes the customers happy" any more then they have the right to insist employees drink a half-gallon of Windex every morning as part of their job under the same excuse. This isn't exactly the same "you know the risks" concept that applies for, say, firemen or oil rig workers. Like you said, it's an accommodation, but with the exception of cigar bars and tobacco stores there is nothing in the act of owning and operating a bar/restaurant/etc. that requires allowing a space for people to use tobacco products. In contrast, allowing such requires employees to endure the dangers of smoking.

McDonald's is also a private establishment, but if they served a Quarter Pounder with Cyanide and Tar I don't think "well just don't eat there" would be considered the appropriate response by a lot of people and/or government officials.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:49 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


that's too bad because bars and restaurants are private businesses and not public places. owners should set their own rules.
posted by brandz at 5:52 PM on February 19, 2009


owners should set their own rules.

This is a stupid argument. The government can and does tell restaurants owners how to run their businesses. What do you think the health department, OSHA and the Alcohol and Beverage Control are for?
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:14 PM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


"that's too bad because bars and restaurants are private businesses and not public places. owners should set their own rules."

That's not exactly true. Businesses open to the public are public places. They are not publicly funded, necessarily. But there are regulations regarding businesses open to the public. The legal justification for a lot of smoking bans comes down to workplace safety, however.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:19 PM on February 19, 2009


The legal justification for a lot of smoking bans comes down to workplace safety, however.

that's if you believe in the second-hand smoke hype. from dr. mike siegel's blog:

Sir Richard Peto was one of the most respected epidemiologists in the world and his research contributed heavily to what we know about the hazardous effects of cigarette smoking. He was a professor of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of the Royal Society, recognized for his contributions to the field of meta-analysis. So he was widely recognized as an expert on the issue of causation.

As Dr. Geoffrey Kabat notes in his new book - Hyping Health Risks: Environmental Hazards in Daily Life and the Science of Epidemiology (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008) - Sir Richard Peto, in testimony before the House of Commons, argued that the risks of secondhand smoke are small and difficult to quantify. Because of this, he refused in his testimony to support the policy of banning smoking in public places.

posted by brandz at 6:26 PM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


OK, smoking is bad, second hand smoke is bad and effects the health of nonsmokers.

But, is there a point where smoking regulations become unreasonable? Should renters be unable to smoke in their own apartments? Should smokers be allowed to smoke in parks?

The dutch stoners are none to pleased about not being able to smoke in cafes - most dutch mix tobacco with their dope (drug tourists won't mind this so much, but the locals aren't thrilled).

What about businesses that exist entirely for smoking hookahs?

Maybe I misinterpreted, but my understanding of the Seattle smoking ban disallows smoking within 25 feet of windows that don't open. This pretty much outlaws smoking in downtown Seattle, unless you want to smoke in the middle of the street.

So yeah, smoking bad, but reasonable is good (this smoking ban seems better than most). Regulating air quality in businesses (which could allow for smoking, and could also help general air quality for workers) seems reasonable. Vegas does a very good job of making sure its smoke sensitive gamblers can sit next to chain smoking gamblers without bothering them. (Vegas is limiting smoking as well).

When the French ban smoking the tides have truly turned.
posted by el io at 6:46 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


... I've got several hundred million in tax revenue that says they don't.

Not to mention billions in Social security payouts no longer required because people choked to death from COPD 20 years earlier than they otherwise would have.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:55 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


"This is a stupid argument. The government can and does tell restaurants owners how to run their businesses. What do you think the health department, OSHA and the Alcohol and Beverage Control are for?

No, that's a stupid argument. Here in America, we start with the assumption that government is limited and should be limited, and that capricious regulation is inherently undesirable. That someone should be able to do whatever the hell they want with their property is the default position, and you have to actually advance an argument for why the government sticking its nose in your business is desirable in this instance.

And frankly, alcohol regulations are essentially a way to make the mob legitimate.
posted by klangklangston at 7:27 PM on February 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


Where I live in VA, about half the bars are non-smoking already. Seems to me it works for customers and employees both, because it's not like there aren't help wanted signs in both the smoking and non-smoking bars. Honestly, do you think the advocates of smoking bans are in it to protect helpless employees from secondhand smoke? They just want to marginalize smoking in general. Now, you may agree or disagree with the overall goal, but for a libertarian-leaning Democrat like me, it's an obnoxious way to achieve it. I'm happy just going to the non-smoking bar when I don't want to come home reeking.
posted by Ella Fynoe at 7:48 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


That someone should be able to do whatever the hell they want with their property is the default position

Agreed, but their property ends where the lungs of their employees and customers begin, barring slavery.

While I generally err on the side of libertarianism in these debates, when there is a high statistical likelihood of harm across a whole population, but without affected individuals being able to prevail in a civil trial, it seems like government regulation is required. While I'd agree the implementations of such regulation are usually imperfect, the standard should be one of least harm.

I do like your idea of regulating indoor air quality rather than the activities that affect it.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:54 PM on February 19, 2009


If bars and restaurants should be left alone to set their own rules then I am assuming there will be no complaints the first time rat droppings are found in the burgers and dead mice end up in the soup.
posted by edgeways at 7:59 PM on February 19, 2009


"Agreed, but their property ends where the lungs of their employees and customers begin, barring slavery.

Well, no, not really.

Look, I'm a vegetarian. I have a whole raft of reasons, but needless to say, I wouldn't be interested in a job that involved a lot of working with meat (working at a terrible faux Tex Mex taught me that). Meat has all sorts of health risks involved with both working with it and eating it. But I think that's something that adults should be able to decide for themselves, and I support mitigating those risks by enforcing safety standards. But those safety standards are only really important because there's a collective actor problem in getting them going.

Someone mentioned above BC doing this on a limited time basis. I'd support that a hell of a lot more than this blanket ban, because it gives everyone the opportunity to try the alternative and make their own decision.

But still, yeah, I feel like if the health concern is the second hand smoke viz a viz air quality, then air quality should be the metric and people should be able to do whatever the fuck they want so long as they don't compromise that.
posted by klangklangston at 8:13 PM on February 19, 2009


That's why I said: I do like your idea of regulating indoor air quality rather than the activities that affect it at the end of my last comment. I feel similarly about incandescent light bulb bans, which should instead have been a lighting efficiency standard (e.g. max watts/lumen).
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:52 PM on February 19, 2009


This makes my night. I have lived in VA most of my life, quit smoking 2 years ago, and I am glad that I will be able to go out at night and not come home reeking of smoke.
posted by SuzySmith at 9:27 PM on February 19, 2009


Regulating indoor air quality can be prohibitively expensive for the smaller businesses. For a system that works, we're talking many tens of thousands of dollars. This is fine for a decent sized bar or club, but unless you want drink prices to double in your local place, you might want to rethink this.
When I was a bartender here in NYC, the absolute worst aspect of the job was not being able to get the smell off of me and the taste out of my mouth for days after my last shift, no matter how much showering, scrubbing, brushing, and gargling I did, that second hand smoke shit was just soaked up by me like a sponge.
Being a bar owner when the ban went through here, I was of course concerned about the affect it would have on business, but also personally very glad because I would no longer reek just from walking into my business, in the daytime, hours after the last smoker had left.
With the exception of the noise complaints from the neighbors regarding the people having to stand outside and smoke,there appears to be no downside. The majority of my customers seem to be happy with the ban. Business didn't go down, people can still go outside and smoke, and some of these same people have told me that they smoke less, and are glad of it, peoples hangovers are less gruesome, etc., there are numerous upsides that I am too jetlagged to go into right now.
My business is highly regulated, and I don't think that adding a smoking ban is capricious in any way. I think that Bloomberg knew exactly what he was doing, trying to cut smoking rates in the city. He may have couched it in employee rights rhetoric, but once California had positive results with their ban, we knew it was coming and why.
I consider myself a liberal to the nth degree. I live by the code do whatever you want, I don't care, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone (who doesn't want to be hurt, that is). Guess what, second hand smoke hurts others. It needs to be regulated, because there are a lot of people who do not want to accept that fact.
posted by newpotato at 10:04 PM on February 19, 2009


Hell is other people.

Here is something the anti-smokers and I can agree on, surely.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:52 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Regulating indoor air quality can be prohibitively expensive for the smaller businesses. For a system that works, we're talking many tens of thousands of dollars. This is fine for a decent sized bar or club, but unless you want drink prices to double in your local place, you might want to rethink this.

This is not what happened in BC. And indeed, after a few years, I believe business was significantly up while costs were down.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:55 PM on February 19, 2009


Which is to say that it most businesses managed to deal with the "prohibitively expensive" just fine, and prices did not go up.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:57 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Regulating indoor air quality can be prohibitively expensive for the smaller businesses. For a system that works, we're talking many tens of thousands of dollars. This is fine for a decent sized bar or club, but unless you want drink prices to double in your local place, you might want to rethink this."

If it's prohibitively expensive, the owner can always ban smoking in the bar. There's nothing preventing him or her.

"That's why I said: I do like your idea of regulating indoor air quality rather than the activities that affect it at the end of my last comment. I feel similarly about incandescent light bulb bans, which should instead have been a lighting efficiency standard (e.g. max watts/lumen).

Yeah, and I was disagreeing with some of your earlier comment while still agreeing with the part where you agreed with me. (I'm trying to be more agreeable.)
posted by klangklangston at 11:15 PM on February 19, 2009


Hey, I wonder what klangklangston thinks about this issue?
posted by fleacircus at 12:01 AM on February 20, 2009


At my favorite hometown restaurant in VA, the cook smokes while he's making burgers, fries, sloppy joes, etc. I wonder if the food will taste better or worse now.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:05 AM on February 20, 2009


I side with klang here, though it is a fantastic notion that any substantial number of establishments would invest in the requisite equipment to accomodate such laws. I say this as a Californian who bolted across the border at age 18 to smoke indoors in Vegas. Short of gambling venues, there are really diminishingly few business models that cater to the likewise diminishing class of people which smokes tobacco that could profit from the provision of such a specialty service.

Which is why I wonder: how are the exceptions for hookah bars worded? Is the article ei io linked as bad as I think, by the way, or can you actually get jurak in Seattle?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:55 AM on February 20, 2009


The UK banned smoking in all enclosed public spaces a year and a half ago. One of the stated goals at the time was to make smoking more inconvenient, and thus encourage people to quit of their own accord. There's also been massive press towards measures, such as help on the NHS, to quit. Secondary smoke health risks was a minor part of the justification, it was mainly about making public places such as pubs more pleasant for non-smokers, as well as discouraging smoking altogether. Hospitals, and many offices and restaurants had been voluntarily smoke-free for some time beforehand.

One reason they went for a straight ban is it's easier to enforce; council officers investigate reports of smoking indoors in pubs etc, and it's a lot clearer if someone is smoking or not than if air quality is at a certain level; business can and have been fined if they allow smoking inside. There are also on-the-spot littering fines issued if you're spotted dropping butts, but obviously enforcement of that is limited. Many public buildings have ashtrays outside and signs instructing you to extinguish and dispose of your cigarette.

One side effect of the ban has been that pubs have invested heavily in beer gardens, covered tables and outside heaters for somewhere for their smoking clients, leading to worries about the extra CO2 emissions caused by such power-hungry heaters, given Britain's less than stellar climate. Clubs have also had to invest in air-quality improvements, given that the smell of sweaty bodies was previously masked by smoke.

Overall, the measures have been moderately successful in their goals; smoking is down significantly (partially also due to continued heavy tax increases) and the trade lost in pubs and clubs has generally been made up by increases from non-smokers returning, though not in all cases. Hookah bars were always a minority interest, but sucks to be them I guess.

Smoker's rights have been disappearing in the UK for some time; though an outright ban is unlikely. There is already a signficant problem with tobacco smuggling from the continent to escape the regular tax hikes, which is one reason rolling tobacco is soaked a lot less than packaged cigarettes, so an outright ban would be very hard to enforce, and quite possibly illegal under EU trade laws. Further restrictions though are possible; the most likely being smoking in the presence of a child, as there is some evidence that second-hand smoke is more harmful to babies and young children. There is also heavy pressure for pregnant women to quit, and there have been some cases of women avoiding pre-natal care because of fear of disapproval of doctors.
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:34 AM on February 20, 2009


Ah, that should have been England banned smoking in enclosed public spaces a year and a half ago; Scotland and Ireland had similar bans in place before that.
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:54 AM on February 20, 2009


Here in America, we start with the assumption .... that ... regulation is inherently undesirable.

If by "we" you mean "robber baron wannabees"
posted by DU at 5:26 AM on February 20, 2009


Where I live in VA, about half the bars are non-smoking already. ... I'm happy just going to the non-smoking bar when I don't want to come home reeking.

Where I go to school in Virginia, I can't think of one of the couple dozen bars in the area that is smoke-free. That makes it rather hard for people to "vote with their feet."

I noticed the ban doesn't cover "stand-alone bars" that aren't part of or attached to restaurants, so I imagine a few venues here will be unaffected.
posted by musicinmybrain at 8:09 AM on February 20, 2009


I've been watching this for the past few weeks. Gov'nor Kaine apparently had made his mind up that a bill was going to get signed this session as three legislators offered anti-smoking bills as soon as the Assembly met a few weeks ago. One bill passed banned smoking in cars with children in it, and another bill the Repubs put up would have allowed municipalities to make their own rules.

Republican Speaker of the House William Howell went along with the bills as opposition to a ban would hurt Repubs during the next election, even though the Republican Party of Virginia was opposed to it.

An earlier draft of the bill had a proviso that the ban would not apply to restaurants during nightclub hours, i.e. late nights when minors are not allowed in. This does not seem to have made it into this draft.

One state Democrat
opposed the bill on the grounds that it was hypocritical to focus on tobacco and ignore the deleterious effects of alcohol. The AMA opposed earlier versions of the bill as it didn't go far enough.

As a person who usually only smokes when he drinks, I'm glad for the employees of such establishments who no longer have to deal with 2nd-hand smoke (especially pregnant waitresses...) and glad for myself that this will probably cut down on my smoke filled nights out.

The ban will go into effect on Dec 1 once the gov'nor signs the bill.

The Bearing Drift blog has had a lot to say about the ban. As Repubs they're mostly offended by the anti-free market and nanny state implications of such a ban, and go so far as to say that the bill is grandstanding by the State as 75% of the state has already banned smoking anyways.
posted by daHIFI at 10:23 AM on February 20, 2009


"If by "we" you mean "robber baron wannabees""

You fail at American civics.
posted by klangklangston at 10:59 AM on February 20, 2009


I used to think that "God wants" are the two funniest words in the English language, but "smokers' rights" is definitely coming up close on the outside.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:45 AM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


If by "we" you mean "robber baron wannabees"

You fail at American civics.

Actually, he's partly right. Robber baron wannabees do eschew regulation. Actual robber barons lobby for it so that they can increase the barriers to entry for their oligopolies and monopolies.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:39 PM on February 20, 2009


Incidentally, pot heads, laws like this will preclude ever having an American version of the Amsterdam coffeeshop experience.

I don't think so-- hookah bars and cigar lounges have exemptions from these smoking bans, you'd see the same sorts of exemptions for pot bars if it was legal.
posted by InfidelZombie at 1:45 PM on February 20, 2009


How about smoking pole? Virginia Beach has a very vibrant hooker scene. No joke.
posted by chaostheory at 7:02 PM on February 22, 2009


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