Beer and Cigarettes
Not that this should become a public policy blog, but Gary Corbin has a rumination about whether Oregon ought to ban smoking in bars.
The ban on smoking in pubs is problematic in that it takes an admittedly evil – but LEGAL – product and behavior (smoking tobacco) and removes our right to choose to do it. And, to do it in a time and place long associated (even expected) with smoking: drinking. If we’re too chicken to ban it altogether, why ban it in the very place people want to do it most?This is exactly where I always end up. I hate smoking bars. You can't breathe, the food and beer tastes worse, and when you get out of the building, you realize your clothes reek. But I always end up where Gary does--it would be fine if others wanted to, but what about the employees? I've never heard a solution to this problem, but he has a thought:
...The problem is that pesky second-hand smoke issue. Sure, non-smoking customers can go elsewhere, but not everyone can: employees, vendors, inspectors, et al.
Maybe the occasional visit of the vendor or inspector can be overlooked. One whiff won’t kill them. But not so the employees. Oh, sure, technically they can quit. But why should it be a choice between making a living – and dying?
Further, there’s an unequal power relationship between employers and employees. In short, employers have it, employees don’t. That’s especially true in the food service industry, which has never been (and probably never will be) unionized. Jobs are tenuous and competitive, pay is typically poor (except in swanky places), and stress is very high. I can attest to all of this with first-hand experience.
Why not a pub smoking tax? Establishments that allow smoking would pay a per-seat premium to the state for that privilege (funds to be used to pay for education and health programs related to smoking). Further I think smoking establishments should be required to provide full health insurance benefits to all employees, even part-timers, and maybe a wage premium, too.I suspect most employees who work in smoking bars are smokers themselves--or don't mind. If we followed this solution, it might actually be a reasonable compromise. Anyone have thoughts?