February 21, 2007
Smoking Bans: It's Gone Too Far and It's All My Fault
Back in the early 1980s, a couple of wacky communities in Northern California banned smoking in public buildings. No one took notice. Then I received a research assignment.
The client, a hospital, wanted to implement a company policy that would allow the client to fire any employee seen smoking anywhere. Why? Some administrator decided that the hospital should set an example for the community.
The logic was fairly simple. We're health care professionals. Smoking causes cancer. Cancer kills. If you work for us and we see you smoking on your front porch, or at the bowling alley, or walking to church on Sunday, etc., you are setting a bad example so we're going to fire you.
The assignment came from a health fanatic partner and he picked me because I was a rabid chain smoker. The logic here was simple too. If anyone in the firm was going to take this client request seriously, it would be me.
This was in 1983 (or thereabouts). Remember 1983? You could smoke anywhere. ANYWHERE! I, for one, had ashtrays strategically located in those areas of the firm library that I frequented regularly. Partners left trails of ash clumps from their cigars as they walked from their corner office to reception to greet clients. We smoked in airplanes for god's sake.
OK, back to the client and its thesis: health care professionals should set an example. My first thoughts were, the food preparers who worked for the hospital weren't health care professionals, the cleaners who mopped the floors weren't ... . And outside of work!!!
Back then I used to be (or thought I was) a pretty good researcher. I researched this issue every reasonable way I could. I then tried every alternative angle I could conceive. In the end, I went to the partner's office (smoking and intentionally doing so) to tell him that the client could implement the policy. There was not a speck of authority from anywhere saying the client couldn't.
|"People who smoke with children present in the confined space of a car or truck might as well be deliberately trying to kill their children." Bangor City Councilor Patricia Blanchette, who is a smoker.AP See also New York Times.|
So the hospital did it. The policy was announced to the workforce and the public. It made the Wall Street Journal! And not just anywhere in WSJ, the feature was published on the front page at the top of the far left column, the prime news slot. That, dear readers, started the ball rolling. Corporate America stepped up to the plate restricting and ultimately banning smoking in the workplace (because it saved them money in health care costs; this was at the beginning of the "cost containment" era).
Government bodies joined the pack. They banned smoking in government buildings. Then required smoke-free areas in privately owned public buildings. Then banned smoking 1,000 feet from the entrance to any public-owned building. Then completely banned smoking in privately owned public buildings. In bars, for god's sake. And now, your car.
If you're a smoker shivering in the cold sitting on a park bench three blocks from work, it's all my fault. Sorry about that. Can you feel my pain from holding in this confession for over 20 years? Oh, by the way, after having quit for six years, I'm back to smoking two packs a day. -- Joe Hodnicki
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Tracked on Mar 14, 2007 3:07:28 PM
This is a situation that has fast gotten out of hand the last ten years. Small businesses suffer from the bans imposed by government, while citizens are having their rights taken away in the most profound form of legal discrimination on record since slavery.
I know this post is old, and this comment will likely be irrelevant, but I have also posted a link to this article on my blog.
I am a smoker and I respect the rights of non-smokers, just as I expect my rights to be respected as well.
Posted by: Bryson | Aug 1, 2008 4:50:30 PM
Scotts, and others seem to have gotten a pass on constitutional rights. This is pathetic.
Posted by: smith | Sep 12, 2007 10:18:50 AM
I am actually a non smoker now since I quit smoking a few years ago.
Even though I am an ex smoker I strongly believe that while cigarettes are legal smokers should have rights too .
I do not allow smoking inside my home as is my right (I have a place set up in a sheltered area outside for smoking friends)but how long will it be before our rights vanish and laws are put through to make it illegal to do so in our homes if we want to?
Posted by: self help hypnosis | Sep 8, 2007 5:20:36 AM
Hey guys as a smoker I feel for all of us standing out in the freezing cold of a canadian winter.And as for getting the government to change this policy....You got to be kidding ,The gov is charging way to much money to stop all this now.And soon it will be other things to go such as fast food (ohh sorry that burger makes you fat ,being fat leads to heart attacks ect)ie no more fast food or chocolate (sorry ladies)well the gov does know whats best for us all after all.Ohh they cant allow us to make the choice to smoke or not,to eat fatty food or not as we just dont know any better,You see we are all children to be told what to do and how to do it.
Posted by: Scott demerchant | Mar 4, 2007 9:55:58 PM
Great story - law librarians often have an effect they don't anticipate when they do research.
As a former smoker I really appreciate the non-smoking movement, but here in Seattle when they banned smoking in the bars I was unhappy.
The smokers go out to the street and drop their butts everywhere. I even counted one day as I walked to my bus to see how many steps I took before I encountered a cigarette butt. I could not go more than 4 steps.
So as far as I am concerned, let them smoke in the bars. I can just choose not to go in.
Posted by: Rita Kaiser | Feb 22, 2007 10:04:04 AM
Quit and happy about it but I do miss it.
Scott's Miracle Grow fires people testing positive for nicotine? And what exactly is in Scott's Miracle Grow?
Posted by: MJB | Feb 22, 2007 7:14:11 AM
Great post! Here in Mass. an employee whose blood tested positive for nicotine was fired from a subsidiary of Scott's Miracle Gro. I believe their headquarters is in Illinois. I called to protest.
This policy of not hiring smokers is being applauded by government subsidized antismoking organizations. It will also benefit nonsmokkers as they will be eligble for jobs from which smokers are fired or for which they were not even considered.
Michael Siegel, B.U. professor of public health, though an antismoker, has started a blog detailing the scientific and rights abuses of the currenta antismpoking campaign:
I too quit smoking for about six years and felt better when I resumed.
Thanks for a great post!
Cambridge Citizens for Smokers' Rights
Posted by: Stephen Helfer | Feb 21, 2007 12:50:19 PM
Hey Joe, can't you find a legal theory to undo the outrage you caused? Now that it's spread worldwide, you could really make a name for yourself.
Posted by: ed | Feb 21, 2007 7:23:17 AM