Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Anti-Smoking Group Instructs Public to Call 911 If They See Someone Light Up in Nonsmoking Zone, or If They See an Ashtray in a Nonsmoking Business

A Nebraska anti-smoking group has instructed the public in Omaha to call 911 if they see someone smoking in an area where smoking is prohibited by the new city ordinance, which bans smoking in most workplaces and restaurants, but not in free-standing bars or in restaurants with Keno that applied for their Keno licenses before June 8, 2006. The group – Nebraska GASP – also instructs the public to call 911 if they see an ashtray in a nonsmoking business.

These instructions to the public are linked to by the Nebraska GASP web site, and are actually posted on the web site of the University of Nebraska at Omaha School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation:

"Q. Who should I call if I see someone breaking the law by smoking, or by having an ashtray in a nonsmoking business?
A. Call the Omaha City Police at 911. Non-emergency calls may be referred to the Telephone Response Squad at 444-5977."

Last week, I reported that Nebraska GASP had publicly supported the request of the Omaha police department to have people call 911 for smoking ban violations, a policy that was opposed by the county's director of emergency services, who warned that this would threaten the emergency system and endanger the public's safety.

Now, it is clear that Nebraska GASP, as well as some sort of anti-smoking contingent within the University of Nebraska, are directly calling upon the public to call 911 if they observe a smoking ban violation, even if that violation is merely the presence of an ashtray.

The Rest of the Story

This is complete insanity. I think the anti-smoking movement has completely gone out of its mind!

Do you mean to tell me that if you walk into a restaurant and you see an ashtray on a table, the appropriate thing to do is to call 911?

I can just see the 911 police dispatcher now:

"Officer W, emergency, 12 Main Street, man running wild with loaded gun in his hand. Officer X, emergency, 3 Oak Street, man unconscious, not breathing. Officer Y, emergency, 2 Pine Street, fire, children in house. Officer Z, emergency, 117 Chestnut, ashtray in restaurant."

I can also imagine the educational lesson given to children in the local elementary schools:

Teacher: OK kids. Today we're going to talk about 911. That's the number you call if you are in an emergency. Everyone say that together. 911.
Kids: 9-1-1
Teacher: What do you do if your mama or papa falls down and isn't moving?
Kids: Call 9-1-1.
Teacher: Good. What do you do if you see a fire?
Kids: Call 9-1-1.
Teacher: Excellent. What do you do if you see someone with a gun on the street?
Kids: Call 9-1-1.
Teacher: Good. And what do you do if you see an ashtray in a restaurant?
Kids: Call 9-1-1.
Teacher: Here's a tricky one. What do you do if you see a smoker in a restaurant?
Kids: Call 9-1-1.
Teacher: And a really tricky one. What if that restaurant has Keno?
Kids: Call 9-1-1.
Teacher: No. Got you. If the restaurant has Keno, you don't call 9-1-1. Only if the restaurant doesn't have Keno do you call 9-1-1.

And here's a conversation I can see between a responsible citizen and the 911 dispatcher:

Responsible Citizen: I am reporting an emergency at the Omaha City Cafe.
911 Dispatcher: What is the emergency?
Responsible Citizen: I see an ashtray.
911 Dispatcher: Is there smoke coming from the ashtray?
Responsible Citizen: No.
911 Dispatcher: Would you consider the Omaha City Cafe to be a stand-alone bar?
Responsible Citizen: Well, there is a bar in here, but it kind of looks like a bar within a restaurant, rather than a stand-alone bar.
911 Dispatcher: OK. So it's not a stand-alone bar. Does the restaurant have Keno?
Responsible Citizen: What's that?
911 Dispatcher: Keno is a game played using a field of numbers from 1 through 80. You can select - or choose Quick Pick - up to 10 numbers in that field. The Lottery's computer randomly chooses 20 winning numbers between 1 and 80 for each game of Keno and displays those winning numbers on the Keno Information Monitor. You win based upon how many winning numbers you match.
Responsible Citizen: Well – yeah – I do see a television screen up above the bar and it has a lot of numbers on it.
911 Dispatcher: Sounds like Keno. OK, on what date did the restaurant apply for its Keno license?
Responsible Citizen: Hold on, I'll check. Hey, bartender. When did you apply for your Keno license?
Bartender: It was last June.
Responsible Citizen: Last June.
911 Dispatcher: Early June or late June?
Responsible Citizen: Hold on. Was it early June or late June?
Bartender: Early June.
Responsible Citizen: Early June.
911 Dispatcher: OK. I'm afraid I'm going to need the exact date.
Responsible Citizen: Sorry -– they need the exact date.
Bartender: Let me check ... (5 minutes later) ... it was June 9.
Responsible Citizen: Are you still there?
911 Dispatcher: Yeah, I'm back. I just had to take a call about a guy who had a stroke. Sorry.
Responsible Citizen: It was June 9.
911 Dispatcher: OK. According to city law, that is indeed a violation of the smoking ordinance. The police are on their way.
Responsible Citizen: What are they going to do?
911 Dispatcher: Arrest the offending ashtray.
Responsible Citizen: And what if the ashtray refuses to go?
911 Dispatcher: It will be charged with resisting arrest.
Responsible Citizen: OK. Thanks for your help. I just hope they don't have to use force. It could get ugly.

Here's a joke:

Question: What do you get when you combine an ashtray and a restaurant without Keno in the city of Omaha?
Answer: A life-threatening emergency.

To analyze this from just one more angle:

Question: Which one of the following is a situation in which Omaha citizens should call 911?
A. You are having trouble breathing and suspect you have pneumonia.
B. You are quite sure that the child living next door is getting repeatedly beaten.
C. Your electricity is out, you've lost your heat, and it's 17 degrees outside.
D. You are a homebound elderly person, there is a blizzard coming, and you have no food in the house.
E. You see an ashtray in a restaurant.

Answer: E. You see an ashtray in a restaurant.

This is the only one of the above situations in which you should call 911. If you are having trouble breathing and suspect you have pneumonia, you should call your primary care physician. Unless you are truly unable to breathe and having a life-threatening emergency, your first line of intervention should be your doctor, not the 911 emergency system. If you want to report child physical abuse, you should call the Department of Social Services or the police department's non-emergency line, unless the child is being beaten at the moment you call. This is important to report, but not a life-threatening emergency. If you lose electricity, call the electric company to report the power outage, not 911. If you are homebound and a blizzard is coming, call a friend, relative, neighbor, or the Department of Senior Services, not 911. If you see an ashtray in a restaurant, this is a life-threatening emergency, and you should call 911 immediately as your first response. Do not call the police department's non-emergency line or the city health department. Call 911.

Here's another question:

Question: You are a responsible Omaha citizen and you notice that a restaurant has provided an ashtray for smokers to extinguish their cigarettes in the entranceway to the restaurant, under a no-smoking sign, and under a placard asking smokers to kindly put out their cigarettes in the ashtray because smoking is not allowed in the restaurant and the establishment wants to comply with the law and protect the health of all their customers and employees. The entranceway is located between the outside doors and inside doors to the restaurant. According to Nebraska GASP and the University of Nebraska, what should you do?

A. Thank the restaurant owner for being law-abiding and for trying his best to comply with the law and for facilitating smokers' cooperation with the law by providing the ashtray in the entranceway.
B. Let the restaurant owner know that the presence of the ashtray constitutes a violation of the city no-smoking ordinance, despite his good intentions.

C. Contact the health department to ask them to remind the restaurant owner that this is technically an ordinance violation and the ashtray will have to be removed.
D. Forget about it. There are more important problems in the world.

E. Call 911.

Answer: E. Call 911.

According to Nebraska GASP and the University of Nebraska, if you see an ashtray in a nonsmoking business, you are instructed to call 911.

Apparently, there are not more important problems in the world.

Well, I can think of just one: the idiocy of some anti-smoking groups and the refusal of the anti-smoking movement to condemn this behavior on the part of their fellow organizations.

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