Turn Down that Racket! I'm Trying to Satirize!

Washington state's Initiative 901, a ban on smoking in all workplaces and "public places" (a malapropism referring to any privately-owned facility which is open to the public, extending even so far as to forbid smoking in 75% of the private rooms in any given hotel) went into effect Thursday, December 8.

What's interesting about the debate surrounding this ban is that I didn't hear much of the usual rhetoric about how service workers shouldn't have to choose between their health and their jobs. This is not to say that I didn't hear it from time to time, but it seems that for most supporters this initiative was not about a paternalistic desire to protect service workers from the effects of their own choices (it would be pretty tough to justify the part about hotel rooms on those grounds), but about a selfish desire to ensure full access on their own terms to every single bar, restaurant, and hotel in the state of Washington.

For the record, I've lived in the Seattle area for over five years, during which time I've been to dozens of restaurants and other "public places" on hundreds of occasions, and never once have I had a problem with smokers. I don't mean that I have an unusually high tolerance for cigarette smoke; I mean that I've never had to deal with it. Ever. Even prior to the ban, only 28% of restaurants allowed smoking (yes, that is a press release issued by the King County government in an attempt to influence an election), and a significant minority of bars were smoke-free.

To a tolerant, liberal pluralist like me, that's enough. I don't need every bar and restaurant in Seattle to cater to my preferences, and if the owners of some of those establishments choose to allow smoking, that's fine with me. I'll just take my business elsewhere. Unfortunately, most of Washington's electorate is neither tolerant nor liberal, and for too many of them, the existence of even one bar or restaurant that fails to cater to their preferences is intolerable.

When in Rome, they say, do as the Romans do. So as long as we're using the sword of government to tailor the policies of private businesses to our personal tastes, I'd like to propose another initiative. I hate loud noises. As a high-frequency whistle is to a dog, so to me is the stultifying beat that defines a dance club. Bars aren't much better. Consequently, I am excluded not just from some, but from from virtually all bars and nightclubs in Seattle, which has had a profoundly detrimental effect on my social life.

As an American, I have a god-given right to go anywhere I want without being subjected to this level of noise pollution. Furthermore, service staff at these establishments should not have to choose between their aural health and their jobs. To remedy this situation, I propose a ban on music and background noise exceeding 80 dB in all "public places." I also have in the works an initiative to address the artistic merits of music played at these establishments (tentatively titled "The Tech-no-More Act").

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I personally would like some

I personally would like some laws against children. I'm always irritated by the little brats, especially when they're throwing a tantrum or crying. Besides, studies have shown that exposure to a baby's cry can cause deafness. (This study was conducting by myself, with no control group and certainly no children.)

In a crowded bar I'm sure

In a crowded bar I'm sure just the noise of people talking could exceed 80db. You might want to add a clause requiring everyone to use "inside voices".

So are cigarette busts now

So are cigarette busts now by law higher priority for Seattle police than pot busts?

I, for one, would like to

I, for one, would like to see a ban on public socialism. we should also consider banning other noxious pollutants such as public feminism, environmentalism, and the evil gasses that emerge from most species hollywood celebrities mouths. All pose a highly unhealthy second-hand bullshit hazard.

You think you are being

You think you are being funny, Austrians think you are being serious. Once smoking has banned all across the country, don't be suprised when they start going after something as trivial as noise.

I'm a moderate liberal

I'm a moderate liberal (ex-Repubican, until about the time Pat Robertson was running for president and his followers took over the precinct caucuses - especially claiming I had to believe in God, I was the one who steadfastly REFUSED to pray during the opening of the district caucus), plus I'm allergic to smoke and I try to avoid it at all times... and I usually avoid all political blog entries:

BUT I think it is a STUPID law!

The sheer idiocy of trying to legislate behavior. Espcially in a county where less then 20% smoke (read that in the nifty little report on King County in my paper, what a waste of money!). I usually have no problem avoiding smoke (about the only time is when it is raining and I'm waiting for a bus, and there is a yahoo smoking in the bus shelter).

Chris wrote: "Austrians

Chris wrote: "Austrians think you are being serious. "

The link went to a comment about Australia. Did you mean Austrians in Australia or Australians?

I thought he was talking

I thought he was talking about Mises, Rothbard, and Hayek. :)

"a selfish desire to ensure

"a selfish desire to ensure full access on their own terms to every single bar, restaurant, and hotel . . ." is, in my opinion, not the motivation. Puritanism is fueled by a self-righteous mindset that believes that certain forms of pleasure are SINFUL, EVIL, and must be suppressed. We seem to be afflicted by Puritans from the left as well as the right who want to claim some kind of moral authority for forcing behavior on their fellow citizens, not because, for example, they want to frequent every single bar in the State of Washington, but because they KNOW that smoking tobacco is a sin, and smokers should be forced to wear a figurative scarlet letter, and suffer for their sins.
Making a crime of every sin is not good sense, not good theology and is bad law.

Dave- That's an interesting


That's an interesting take, and fits into what I call the "Nirvana by End of the Gun" scenario, in which the left tries to model society in the way they wish by using the sledgehammer of the law.

I wouldn't be surprised to see an attempt (if it hasn't happened already) to ban smoking in your own home and car if you have kids. It's for the children, you know...

Just waiting for the health nannies to drop their pretenses and go after chocolate- now that, sir, would mean wah!

Puritanism is fueled by a

Puritanism is fueled by a self-righteous mindset that believes that certain forms of pleasure are SINFUL, EVIL, and must be suppressed.

It's possible, but most of what I heard from the supporters boiled down to, "I don't want to have to put up with it."

I had a long and by turns

I had a long and by turns interesting and frustrating conversation about smoking bans with a colleague of mine (with a PhD in Philosophy) a few months back. I took the basic liberal/libertarian line. Her counter argument was definitely in line with the justification you cite above. She argued that non-smokers should not have to be subjected to the pollution of second-hand smoke in public places (like the Thai restaurant we were sitting in). Moreover, she insisted that as a public place (i.e. open to the public) it was not private property. Bars, however, are private property (because there are legal restrictions on entry). Further, smoking bans protect liberty, while smoking in a restaurant is a violation of liberty. And finally, the state has the right to regulate public places to whatever degree it sees fit and that private property is a reactionary notion. Yikes!

Jay- “.I wouldn’t be

Jay- “.I wouldn’t be surprised to see an attempt (if it hasn’t happened already) to ban smoking in your own home and car if you have kids. It’s for the children, you know…”

The town of Friendship Height MD has done you one better. This was repealed when the main supporter was arrested for being a pervert. See:

As you immagined though it was justified like this:
“A lot of times there's a lot of people congregated outside of the office buildings, and it creates this huge cloud of smoke which does encroach onto the sidewalk, and then you have to walk through it, you know, and you don't--and you have the young child or even if you yourself are not a smoker or don't really want to have to be inhaling other people's smoke, it seems a little unfair.” Tara in support of outdoor smoking ban, Friendship Heights Md. 2000, NPR 12/15/2000;

I own a bar in Washington

I own a bar in Washington and most of my customers smoke. I haven't seen any increase in non smokers since the December 8th ban. If they all want a smoke free atmosphere that's great. There are many places already non smoking they can go. Yet I have to make my customers that have been loyal to my business for 30 plus years stand outside in the rain to smoke. This law will force the closure of many small businesses, possibly even mine.