Saturday, August 1, 2009

Diner Observations

This week I happened to have a late breakfast at a local diner. It was well-past the morning rush so it wasn't crowded. But the distribution of the crowd was still interesting.

Half the restaurant is reserved for smokers, half for non-smokers. On the smokers' side, one booth was occupied but nobody was smoking. On the non-smokers' side, six boothes were occupied.

On Sunday, the restaurant is all non-smoking.

Maybe this place is unique in Michigan, but I doubt it. Instead, I suspect it's a good illustration of why a smoking ban would help restaurants, not hurt them.


kevins said...

Gee, Judy. Now I'm convinced. One observation at one restaurant on one morning past the rush hour. What other evidence would one need?

Let's say you are right. Let's say it is obvious that smoking bans are good for restaurants. Then why in the world aren't restaurants invoking the ban on their own? There is no law that says they can't ban smoking on their own.

Communications guru said...

Every single study from the 37 other states and numerous foreign course smart enough to enact workplace smoking bans supports your observation. Plus, brett here already knows the answer to his question because I have answered it many times on my blog.

kevins said...

So I take it that the health of people in those 37 states has improved dramatically since the bans were enforced. I don't read that anywhere. I guess that conservative media is just hiding those facts.

And you haven't answered my question. Your bleating deals with the health risks.

My question is this: If it's so darn clear that a smoking ban would help business, then why aren't there more self-imposed smoking bans by bars and restaurants?

I can see why the tobacco industry would fight the bans. But I can't see why bar and restaurant lobbies would fight a law that will help their business. Of course, it's possible that guru thinks he better knows how to run a restaurant than do those people who actually run them.

Say, guru, isn't there a business opportunity here? Go out and start some non-smoking restaurants in Michigan. You will have a competitive leg up on those stupid businesspeople who won't ban smoking without a law to force them.

Given the widespread support for a smoking ban among the public, you will attract a lot of customers who are now forced to eat in smoke-filled restaurants.

It's a perfect solution. You can prove your point, make some money, provide some jobs and you can also afford to buy health insurance.

Of course, that means actually doing something rather than telling other people how to live their lives.

Communications guru said...

That’s what the results say.

Your question has been asked many times and answered many times, brett.

I’m not telling anyone how to live. Smoke all you want. You just can’t do it where you endanger the majority of people who don’t want their health damaged by secondhand smoke.

Jordan said...

I know you're saying that the question has been asked before, and answered before, but I've asked it myself without getting an answer.

What is keeping the business owners from choosing to go smoke-free? If it is in their own best interest, as the argument goes, then why wouldn't they? I respectfully ask this, because I truly can't think of an answer.

If there is no answer, then the debate can be around whether or not the government should force business owners to do something they DON'T want to do. But if there is an answer, then the debate is whether or not the government should force them to do something they DO want to do.

And no offense, but the latter debate seems a bit silly...
And sad.

Communications guru said...

No offense taken. However, I just get tired of answering the same question over and over again, especially when he knows the answer before he asks it.

Even though smokers make up only 22 percent of the population in Michigan, some owners take the empty threat seriously that the customer will stop coming if they go smokefree. No one is promising they will become customers if they go smoke free. In this economic environment, they don’t want to lose one, single customer, and they are taking the bluff seriously. To make matters worse, industry groups like the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association are using debunked studies that say it will hurt business, and many are buying into that lie. The evidence and results from the 37 other states and entire countries that have enacted a ban shows it will not hurt business.

The Government forces business owners to do something they don’t want to do all the time. Health department inspections are very painstaking, and like those laws enacted to ensure people do not get sick from food born illness, secondhand smoke is also a public health issue.

kevins said...

Why, I wonder, would non-tobacco-related industry groups use false information that would actually hurt their membership?

If the evidence is so overwhelming, why would small businessowners think otherwise?

Why is it that you think you know more about running a business than does the actual person doing it? Perhaps you've had experience running a business. Maybe you've met a payroll once in your life.

Jordan, you ask a fair question. You should know, I'm a non-smoker and don't have a problem with non-smoking rules at bars.

But I do have a concern with growing government control; I do have a concern with statistics being twisted and mis-used; I do have a concern with control freaks like guru telling me how to live my life.

And mostly I have a concern with Democrats trying to make hay with this and not really believing in it. The proof is in the fact that the Democratic-controlled House won't pass a smoking ban unless casinos are exempted. Amazing. That either means they don't care if casino workers die, or they don't really believe that the health threat is as dire as claimed.

See, I think this is all a political stunt aimed at trying to make Repubicans look like ogres. But when the Republicans called their bluff, the Dems caved.

The way the Dems want it, some small, locally-owned shot-and-beer place would have to kick out smoking customers and a mile down the road, a Las Vegas-owned casino could have thousands of people smoking and eating and drinking. That's what Democrats call protecting the little guy. (as long as the little guy is a casino lobbyist with money in his pocket.)

Jordan G said...

Thanks Guru. And that is a logical counter. I am still in favor of letting owners decide, while providing incentives to establishments that do go smoke-free (be it tax breaks, or sell a limited number of smoking licenses similar to alcohol licenses).

There are many instances in which the government tells business owners what they can & can't do, and I am strongly in favor of that in most situations.

In one respect, I am in the same boat as Kevins on this one. I have never smoked a cigarette, and would have no problem with a bar choosing to go smoke free. I just feel to ban completely would materially impact a portion of the population who aren't looking to do others harm- they're just looking for a place to hang out. And I think every town should have some place for them.

I don't know anyone on the conservative side who wouldn't accept some sort of compromise (except for the extreme nuts).

I am obviously not in the same boat as Kevins when it comes to government growth. When the choice is between trusting the government to look out for our best interest, or trusting a business, by definition the government SHOULD have our back, whereas businesses will act with their own interest at heart. Granted, that's the utopian version of government, and is often not realistic, but at least it works in theory. And in theory, you can't trust a business to do something that hurts them while helping the public.

I'm an economic socialist, and a social libertarian. I just happen to view this issue through the social lens.

kevins said...

Interesting take, Jordan. Although I'm not sure the government has its peoples' backs in places like N.Korea, Iran, the Sudan, the old Soviet Union, etc.

Still, I admit I'm using extreme examples...and you can easily point out the robber barons as well as modern day Enrons and AIGs.

So there must be a balance. I totally want the government looking out for me back in the kitchen where they are preparing food; I don't think I need the government to choose my dining environment for me.

It is clear that there must be a line drawn between pure government control and uncontrolled capitalism. The question is, where do we draw that line. That's why there are democracies, I guess.

I don't doubt there are health issues with secondhand smoke. I think a reasonable person can disagree with whether those hazards reach the point where government tells a business how to operate. But if that's the democratic position, that's what happens.

I do fear mass hysteria and fake arguments. I don't believe House Democrats want casino workers to die. So I must assume they really don't believe the threat to be so great as to risk losing casino customers, who are free to decide where to gamble. If that's the case, why shouldn't the local bar have the same choice?

Jordan G said...


I fully agree with everything in that post.

Well done.

Communications guru said...

The problem I have with letting owners decide is that we don’t let them decide if they will require their employees to wash their hands before preparing customers food, what temperatures they should maintain their food at, or what procedures should be taken when handling food. We require certain regulations be followed to protect the health of the public. It is no different with secondhand smoke. The fact is secondhand smoke kills, and that is not in dispute.

This is not about trying to stop people from smoking. It’s about protecting the health of the people who choose not to endanger their health by smoking. I’m willing to compromise, and by compromise I assume you mean a few exceptions. But the goal is and always will be to ban smoking indoors in places where the public gathers. When all the arguments the pro-smoking lobby are making are proven wrong, then we can have the complete ban.

They are trying to argue a ban is government interference, but then in the same breath they try to argue we have to have a ban with zero exceptions or nothing. It makes no sense until you realize it’s just a way to stop it with the all or nothing approach. There are a few people buying into their false arguments, like it will hurt business, and somehow that’s why we can’t have at least a partial ban until they are proven wrong.

Jordan G said...

Guru, the examples you state are things that the government must regulate, due to those things being hidden from the public. Because a business would be able to hide the fridge temperature from the customers, the government needs to get involved as a transparency bridge.

With the smoking issue, it would be difficult to argue that the people in the establishment don't realize it allows smoking. It may take a minimal amount of inquery by a customer, but it is easily determined.

So I would be in support of making it obvious which bars allow smoking, by requiring an easily-seen sign out front. And to be honest, if a company wanted to put a sign out front that said "our employees DON'T wash their hands", then I don't see why they would still need to be regulated for that.

Communications guru said...

They are all public health issues, and you can only see smoke for a few seconds. For example, people think they are safe if they sit in the no smoking section. Not true. Smoke knows no boundaries, and like the medical officer for the Michigan Department of Community Health said, there is no ventilation system invented yet that makes secondhand smoke safe.

What about the employee who has to fight the smoke? The fact is hospitably workers have a 50 percent higher rate of caner than everyone else. Why do they have to choose between paycheck and health?

Some newspapers publish the results of health inspections at restaurants. You should read one and see what they look for. You can also probably see one at your local county health department.