Smoking in Bars

Published in the Hollister Free Lance, November 16, 1998
Dear Editor:

He's BAAACK. In the November 9 Free Lance, Daniel Maese is criticizing the enforcement of the California Smoke-Free Workplace Law. It's unfortunate that he doesn't understand the law.

For example, he says "People who choose to go to a bar that permits smoking should be aware of such. If they oppose smoking, select a bar that prohibits it." There are several things wrong with this statement.

First, the statement implies Mr. Maese is telling patrons to go to non-smoking bars. However, the law was not meant (at least not directly) to protect bar patrons, but to protect bar workers. Major clue -- it's called the Smoke-Free WORKPLACE law. Statistics I've heard claim working eight hours in a smoky bar is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes. Or doesn't Mr. Maese believe that second-hand smoke kills?

Second, why does Mr. Maese only seem upset when the law applies to bars? The law had previously been applied to almost all other businesses in California. Is he advocating that the law be completely repealed? If not, why is a bar worthy of an exemption. A bar is still a workplace.

Third, even assuming Mr. Maese's false assumption about who the law is protecting, finding a smoke-free bar was probably more difficult than he claims. Before the law was applied to bars, how many bars in San Benito County prohibited smoking?

If the answer is "zero", then claiming patrons could select a bar that prohibited smoking is disingenuous. It's along the lines of saying smokers can fly an airline that allows smoking. (Of course, perhaps Mr. Maese thinks smoking should be allowed on airplanes, too.)

I'll also bet that, in most places, it was a lot easier for a smoker to step outside to smoke than it was to find a non-smoking bar.

Mr. Maese also makes the ridiculous analogy that smoking is bad for you, but so is eating high-fat food and breathing air in some cities, implying those aren't regulated. He again misses several key points.

First, the issue isn't that smoking is bad for the smoker; the issue is that second-hand smoke is bad for non-smokers. Eating high-fat food may be bad for someone, but it doesn't threaten to kill anybody but the eater. If somebody wants to smoke, that's their choice, but they have no right to force me to smoke (even second-hand).

Second, his claim that breathing air in some cities is bad for people just serves to refute his analogy. Has Mr. Maese heard of clean air laws? Why does he think they exist? Could it be so people can breathe better, safer air? The analogy to preventing smoking in workplaces seems too obvious.

Of course, perhaps Mr. Maese feels clean air laws are just more government meddling. As I recall, Mr. Maese used to live in the Los Angeles area. I wonder if he supports repealing the anti-smog laws down there. After all, people can just find another place to live....

At the end of his letter, Mr. Maese gives local government a list of items to fix. I guess he doesn't see how those could be seen as government meddling in personal business. Let me help.

1. Control traffic around schools -- Hey, don't mess with my "right" to drive as fast as I want! If parents think traffic is too fast near their school, they can home school their children or send them to a different school.

2. Fix the roads -- As he mentioned Measure J, if fixing roads includes widening Highway 25, perhaps he doesn't realize the government will have to take (buy really, but some people don't view it that way) private property to build that road on. Keep off of my property!

3. Control growth -- Hey, don't tell me where I can and can't live, Mr. Maese! If you think there's too much growth here, you can always move somewhere else.

4. Increase police and fire protection -- Hey, get that government off my back! If I want to steal something, vandalize something, or kill someone, too bad. Move out of my "business area" if you don't like it.

Seriously, I have no problems with Mr. Maese's priorities. They represent legitimate governmental functions -- just like regulating public health by limiting public (note the key word -- "public") smoking does.

Want to comment on this? E-mail me at [].