Staff Ed: Appleton Smoking Ban? Counter-Point

Dan Holbrook

The proposed smoking ban, if anything, doesn’t go far enough. Yes, it ejects Lawrentians from local bars, the last warm place they could go to smoke in the winter, and in doing so it saves nonsmokers from the notorious dangers of secondhand smoke, also known as “environmental tobacco smoke,” but where does it send the smokers? To the sidewalks, where the children are. And even the most skeptical analysts agree that children are the most vulnerable to ETS.
In fact, the World Health Organization published a study in 1998 that found “no association between childhood exposure to ETS and lung cancer risk” ( Wait, that’s a bad example. How about the 1993 EPA meta-study, which looked over a wide number studies -including the Surgeon General’s study cited by the man who proposed the bill – and found no statistically significant link between secondhand smoke and lung cancer? Bad example again, I know.
But these are the studies that proponents of smoking bans cite when trying to claim a health risk. And to be fair, there is an increased risk, just not a statistically significant one. We ran the EPA meta-study numbers, or rather, comedians Penn & Teller – who host the debunking show Bullshit! on Showtime – did it for us.
Apparently, people exposed to secondhand smoke have a 1 in 80,000 chance of dying of lung cancer. People not exposed to secondhand smoke have a 1 in 100,000 chance. So if we institute the ban, we could save the life of 1/6 of an Appleton resident. And for those who think secondhand smoke doesn’t affect us at Lawrence: 1/285 of a member of our student body could be saved. You heartless monster.
Even if the risk of which we’re so skeptical actually exists, there’s something to be said for allowing businesses their freedom, instead of turning all of Appleton into Squaresville. To our well-meaning adversaries who are so sure that smoke-free businesses will prosper: why haven’t those businesses chosen to become smoke-free already? Why does the Wisconsin Restaurant Association (see page 1) oppose this measure?
Citizens ought to lobby area bars on an individual basis to seek a change in policy. And if Appleton’s first smoke-free watering hole ignites a downtown bar boom, you can “we told you so.”