Restaurant smoking bans went into effect in Oklahoma and Indianapolis yesterday.
The Oklahoma law forces restaurants to decide whether to be smoke-free or smoke-filled. The choice is between eliminating smoking completely or allowing it in enclosed, separately ventilated rooms ("smoke chambers"), unlimited in size, in which workers must serve customers.
The Indianapolis law also forces restaurants to decide whether they want to be smoke-free or smoke-filled. The choice is between eliminating smoking completely or allowing it anywhere but restricting entry to the restaurant to adults (age 18 and up).
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I simply don't see any public health justification for a law that forces businesses to decide to either be smoke-free or smoke-filled. If secondhand smoke is a severe occupational health hazard, then all restaurants should be smoke-free. If it is not, then all restaurants should make their own decision about what they want to do and the government should leave them alone.
You can't rationalize a public health policy intended to protect workers from the alleged hazards of secondhand smoke by arguing that your policy is going to allow businesses a choice of either exposing or not exposing their workers to this alleged hazard. It just doesn't make any sense and I don't see any public health justification for either of these policies.
It's kind of like declaring that asbestos is a major public health hazard and then passing a law mandating that asbestos removal companies which serve residential customers must make their workers wear respirators during asbestos removal while those which serve corporate customers can allow their workers to breathe in the carcinogenic asbestos fibers. That's not a rational, sensible, or consistent public health policy and there's no public health justification behind it.
Perhaps a more fitting analogy would be one that requires restaurants that serve children to require that meat be refrigerated while allowing restaurants that serve adults to make their own decision about whether to refrigerate their meat or not. The Indianapolis analogy, in fact, is to a law that forced businesses to make a choice: refrigerate your meat, or don't refrigerate your meat but you can't allow kids into your restaurant.
And the Oklahoma analogy, in fact, is to a law that required restaurants to either refrigerate all their meat or to only serve their meat in an enclosed section of the restaurant in which those who chose to eat unrefrigerated meat could do so. Or perhaps a more fitting analogy would be to a law that required gas stations to either provide tight-fitting gas hoses that do not leak toxic fumes or to create separately ventilated islands with cheaper, leaky hoses that emitted toxic and carcinogenic fumes but which contained those fumes to the leaky hose island.
This is truly irrational and makes no public health sense. Nor does it have any public health justification. But I guess tobacco control policies don't need to be rational or to have a solid public health justification? After all, it's all being done to protect the kids.