When media does PR

Dateline: Tue 27 Oct 2009

Based on anti-smoking reporting in the Indianapolis Star -- some of it quite compelling, including an interview with a stage IV lung cancer patient who never smoked but worked in a smoky insurance agency -- as well as radio interviews and some TV coverage, many of us believed the smoking ban was a sure-fire proposition.

Libertarian Brad Klopfenstein got a little token time on TV last night, voicing (briefly, sound bite) his opposition to the ban, but nowhere was that perspective seriously explored -- that I saw -- in our MSM.

Anyhow, we were led astray by the majority of the reporting. Alas, the ban failed.

Perhaps the reading and watching and listening public would have been better informed about this issue going in, if there had been some effort by the media to concentrate less on a PR campaign, and more on the reservations of those opposing the ban (as well as interviewing council members who support it).

Here's this morning's Star story:


Stricter workplace smoking ban in doubt

Council divided on chances of reviving tabled ordinance

By Francesca Jarosz

A proposal to ban smoking in nearly all Indianapolis workplaces faces an uncertain future after a narrowly divided City-County Council tabled it Monday night.

The 14-13 vote means the ordinance can return to the council agenda with majority support, but some on the council said achieving that could be difficult. The vote is the latest in a series of close decisions by the 29-member body in recent months.

Opponents of the ordinance, which would strengthen a current ban on smoking in most restaurants and public spaces such as hotel lobbies, were declaring victory after Monday's vote.

"I don't think this council is going to bring it back," said Brad Klopfenstein, former executive director of the Indiana Licensed Beverage Association who is leading an opposition group called Save Indianapolis Bars. "I'm glad to see they're representing the rights of adults to make adult decisions."

Others interpreted the vote differently. Bruce Hetrick is a volunteer for Smoke Free Indy whose wife died of cancer after years of working in a smoke-filled environment.

"We have tonight stared in the face of overwhelming health and economic evidence and just scoffed at it," Hetrick said. "This delay tonight is another death sentence. It's deeply disappointing."

Some supporters, however, say the battle is far from over. Councilman Ben Hunter, a Republican and one of the sponsors, said he expects it will be back before the council in the next two to three months with enough votes to pass.

"It's inevitable that it's going to pass," Hunter said. "Indianapolis will move forward on the issue."



John Howard [unverified] said:

The reason places are smoky indoors is due to inadequate ventilation (more often a complete lack thereof).

I recall being in a smoking bar in Michigan a number of years ago. They had a ventilation system that was readily available and innovative ( I have forgotten the name of it).

It lifted the air vertically througout the large room and into a scrubber that cleansed the air of its impurities.

The result? My group of nonsmokers sat in this bar, surrounded by smokers, and our air was clean with not even a slight hint of cigarette smell.

Secondhand smoke in a bars or bowling alleys is not a legal problem, it is a technology problem.

2009-10-27 08:10:28

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

The Star featured an interview with a young woman who works in a bar, who complained about smoke and said she hates to go to work for that reason.

Tippers in bars, where smoking is prevalent, are much more generous than tippers in non-smoking family restaurants, where the complaining young woman should immediately seek employment.

I'm not at all convinced that smoking is worse for national health than being nannyed to death. And I speak as a smoker of 45 years who quit cold but still object to zealots telling me that legal cigarettes should banned in public-- and private-- places.

2009-10-27 08:59:58

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

My chain-smoking Dad's smoking nearly killed me when I was an asthmatic child and of that I am not exaggerating.

I spent much of my childhood in hospital oxygen tents while my cigarette-addicted Dad kept puffing away.

I absolutely am enraged when someone lights up a cigarette in my presence now - in an inside public place where I am breathing the communal air.

Why should it be a "right" for people to damage the health of others with their dangerous behavior? It is my right to breathe smoke-free air.

I frequently see little children riding in cars filled with the smoke of their parents' cigarettes and it breaks my heart.

2009-10-27 12:39:52

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

As long as there are Toms and John Howards spewing their half-truths (and that's being kind) about indoor air quality and smoking ills, we will always have this kind of irrational debate.

I find it helpful to remind folks of these undeniable truths:

1. Smoke is harmful.
2. Indoor air quality is adversely affected by pollutants of all kinds, but smoke is by far the most-dangerous.
3. Indoor smoke often clings to surfaces for weeks, and some of the ill health effects continue for weeks.
4. Your right to smoke stops where my lungs have to breath it, in ANY public space.
5. Public spaces are defined as: publicly-owned venues, and any privately-owned venue that requires government permits to open itself to the general public.

No. 5 is particularly important, and here's why:

It's non "nanny state" when a business opens its doors to the public, and then applies for zoning for a restaurant, and has to get all kinds of health and physical plant issues addressed to get that zoning. You must prove you have adequate parking of varying kinds. And ample restrooms that work properly. And clean aluminum or washable surfaces in the food prep area, as well as drains that are independent of the bathroom drains. And adequate exits, doors, and properly-installed electrical systems.

This is all done for public health, safety and general welfare reasons. The government supervises that oversight.

Smoke is no different.

Tell ya what: the next time I see one of you in a restaurant, how's this: I'll find a cna of the stinkiest rotten food anywhere, open it up, and set it two feet from your elbow.

And dare you to do something about it.

The folks who claim their rights are being violated don't understand basic freedoms.

And the media should be ashamed of its role in this debate. But that's nothing new in this town, is it?

2009-10-27 13:36:28

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

I would certainly seek out cleaner air rather than breathe the smokey kind, given the option. Which is why I suggested the young waitress interviewed by the Star do likewise. Certainly it would be a wiser course of action for her to do so than whine about the air quality in her current place of employment.

People who don't like cigarette smoke have the option of seeking out establishments that either have good air filtration or don't allow smoking at all. If the do gooder template prevails, there won't be such choicces.

Like all issues of personal choice, the no smoking conversation has reached absurd extremes (I am reminded of the homeowner who lived several hundred yards upwind of a non-smoker, and called the cops on the smoker because she could smell smoke on her property).

Antismoking zealots include people who pitch a fit if they can smell cigarettes on another's clothes (I agree it stinks, but so do a lot of things), or catch a whiff of cig smoke outdoors. Their reaction is excessive, damning the deed rather than the effect of fractional smoke reaching their nose. This is hypercriticism of another's personal choice, not unlike making fun of a fat person for eating too many Big Macs: the objector is objecting to another's poor choices.

It is remarkable how many people are determined to make others Do The Right Thing ("right" by their own lights).

2009-10-27 14:50:38

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Good points, Tom. But it's a matter of invading personal space with offensive AND unhealthy odors.

Someone's BO, for instance, while disgusting, doesn't necessarily cause lung cancer.

Ditto with excessive perfume. Love the ladysmell, but some go, well, way overboard.

This purely a matter of public health, withi overwhelming scientific data ot back up the nonsmokers' claims.

It's only a matter of time. Thankfully. And it doesn't infringe on anyone's rights one iota, to push their smoking into personally-owned self-contained cubes. Anywhere else, and it's potentially damaging to others. Period.

2009-10-27 17:54:05

hendy [Member] said:

I'll vote for TTT's conclusions. Here's why:

In this strange society we live in, we follow lots of rules designed to prevent causal harm to one another. For a long time, I objected to seat belts. Then I witnessed a hideous crash at 91st and Meridian. A truck slammed into the rear of a Camaro. Were the occupants of the Camaro unbelted, they'd have certainly gone through the windshield. They walked away, a bit bruised. Their car was beyond totaled-- it was smashed to smithereens. This is the price paid for civility.

Not breathing someone's secondhand smoke is a similar sort of civility. If all in a room are consenting second/primary smokers, it would perhaps be ok. But wait staff and others are not. The bar owner association members are killing their employees.

Same goes for other *public* venues, too. The quote unquote nanny state sentiments betrays fear of loss of liberty. Think of the smokers, but more importantly, think of the captive non-smokers who are exposed to what TTT correctly labels as victims.

I, too, have been smoking for about forty years. I just went outside, in the cold and rain, to have another one. It's my suicide. But I don't smoke indoors even in my office, which I rent and occupy because I understand second-hand smoke *kills*. You can look to Bruce's wife Pam, and say, well, she never smoked a single cigarette in her life... just those from others. Some people have a genetic propensity to such cancers, and a smoker forcing their wills on such individuals is criminal in my mind.

Just don't tell Bruce I still smoke. He might kill *me*.

The cigarette and tobacco companies are drug dealers, pure and simple. The drug will likely kill you, just like most other drugs that we've made illegal. Why did we make them illegal? Maybe to have a population that can get up in the morning and go to work, have functional families, and otherwise live civilly. My Camels are my Prozac. I'm a stimulant addict, viz my conjunctive Starbucks habit. Maybe I'm actually hypothyroid; I've asked my doc but he just smiles and changes the subject. But I'm an addict. And I realize that others shouldn't suffer because of my addiction.

And the proctological orifices that call themselves council members that vote against the health of their constituents, well, they've abetted manslaughter.

2009-10-27 18:33:02

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

You are of an age, T3, that suggests smoking was completely pervasive in your salad days. It was common, in the 1960s-1970s and well into the 1980s for meetings to be conducted in a haze of cigarette and pipe smoke. Evreyone smoked and ash trays would be filled.

(I principally smoked a pipe for many years and remember when, with door closed in my NY office, I managed to generate enough smoke as to overcome the 34th floor's HVAC system, and carry smoke into other offices; I was asked to cease.)

Smoking was culturally accepted, even encouraged. And for those of us who spent time on the phone or in saloons, cigs were an important ingredient.

The diminishment of smoking has been largely due to social stigmatation: smoking has become seen as a low class practice. Has less to do with "education."

(I confess to having past involvement with tobacco marketing and my wife managed national advertising programs for various Unholy Brands. She still smokes...those less so with passing years.)

In the end, smoking is still legal and thus a matter of personal choice. And I also think the consequences of second hand smoke have been overstated.

2009-10-27 19:14:17

John Howard [unverified] said:

So I point out a bar that had perfectly smokefree air, illustrating smokers can puff away with an extensive air filtration system, and that's accused of being a half truth? Really?

Smoking IS different from what goes on in the food prep area. I expect to be served food prepared in sanitary conditions by people using sanitary practices. I see little or none of the preparation itself, thus having health inspectors and regulations are important. They watch out for me where I otherwise have no practical ability to do myself.

Smoking, on the otherhand is there in full view and I am thus fully informed and aware. I can decide to accept it or leave.

Secondhand smoke seems to be the 'Red Scare' of the 21st century. People loved to persecute them they thought were 'reds' in the 50's because they were certain they would cause great harm Americans. They whipped themselves into a frenzy, just like the smoking ban folks do now.

The way to drive smoking out of restaurants, bars and other places is with people deciding not to patronize them, not by prohibition. Didn't we learn a lesson with that other prohibition?

Smoking IS nasty, unhealthy and I loathe being around it. I equally loathe 'total bans' on things just because a small (and it is a small) group of people want it, because they think they know what's best and they have made it their their mission in life to 'protect' the rest of us.

We are still people with free will and an ability to make our own informed decisions. We don't need laws managing those aspects of our life that we can manage just by using our brains.

2009-10-28 08:00:18

hendy [Member] said:

"Using our brains" implies people have them.

You can ask guys like Bruce Hetrick. Maybe my brother-in-law, a postman, who's been through chemo 3x. Perhaps our mutual father-in-law... oops, he's buried of lung cancer.

Maybe you can talk to Ruth. Oops, she has asthma, exacerbated by living with a smoker.

You call it, John, when you say it's nasty unhealthy, etc. Simple lack of patronization imbues that it's ok to have hazardous working conditions for its servers..... or those sitting across from you in a lobby, or the fog of smoke surrounding most outside facing doorways these days.


It's not the red scare, it's real, and it kills-- slowly for some and for children and others exposed, permanently damages their lungs. As in forever. Go ahead and deny the evidence, like people deny global warming. Suit your rationalized self. Then end up being part of the problem of genuine civility- understanding the plight of others. Banning smoking in public places protects the health of others. Some of them are very susceptible to the damage and don't know it. Others, like another brother-in-law of mine with CF, have to stay away completely from bars. He can't go to the Slippery Noodle and listen to blues because the place will nearly kill him. Really.

He can't go to restaurants where smoking is permitted, at all, ever. Period. Why? He'll get sick. He has under 20% of lung capacity. Why? Genes.

You're boorish, John, inconsiderate at best in this regard and accomplice to manslaughter at worst.

2009-10-28 09:08:43

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Well I wouldn't indict John Howard. Just yet. He has some good opinions form time to time, which I enjoy and from which I elarn.

This is not one of them.

There is no--underline **no**--filtration system that adequately handles cig smoke in a confined space. Period.

Some do better jobs than others, but none restores the air to what it was before the offending smoker lit up.

Science is really not divided at all on this issue. It's overwhelmingly--like 90% of independent studies--solidly in favor of emliminating smoke. "Red scare" ? Man, there's a downplay of reality.

Wake up, John Howard. The jury is in. Cig cmoke hurts and kills. Banning cig smokingn does not inhibit business anywhere where it's been enacted. In fact, I've mentioned this here before, but I read a story about actuarial studies that proved Claifornians have among the cleanest lungs in the nation, thus their life/health insurance is affected (based on smoke only..other things can and do affect insurance costs).

Cali adopted its statewide smoking ban in 1979, give or take a year. There's been ample time to prove business was lost, or health wasn't improved.

Support or oppose this Marion County ordinance all you want. I obviously favor it. But don't ignore the obvious and accepted facts.

Or, as I love to quote Charlie Rangel telling Hugo Chavez: "Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining."

2009-10-28 10:14:10

whosear [Member] said:

Interesting debate...As one who has asthma, I've found that Indiana's change of weather is the most detremental factor in increased asthma attacks. Particulate matter has been also linked as a trigger. Cigarette smoke produces substancial particulates.

As far as other claims from, "scientific consensus" I have some doubts. Lung cancer and smoking were not associated until after WW II, when herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, and additives became prevalent in tobacco.

Now, the health benefits of smoking? Research is being conducted on nicotine in reduced incidence of Parkinson's amoung smokers. Nicotine has antibacterial properties and improves (temporarily) memory (it is linking to hardening of the arteries).

I like the idea of applying cap and trade. It has been effective in the management of pollutants, and is proposed for greenhouse gases. It would provide smoke-free environments, inbetween, and obviously, smoky environments.

2009-10-30 00:32:07

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