Tuesday, July 15, 2008

"I'm proud to live in a state that killed off people's livelihoods" 

Well, that's not exactly what she said. She said:

... As a physician, I have already seen how this ban has helped people who work in bars finally quit smoking. I have patients who struggled quitting because they were around smoke at work. They have been more successful in quitting now that they are able to completely avoid secondhand smoking.

There are many other states starting to look at banning smoking in bars and restaurants.

I�m proud to live in a state that chose health and I hope that our progress helps other states make that commitment as well.

One person's benefits, though, are another person's costs:
The physician's answer?
I am not going to debate what is in the Bill of Rights we all hold so dear. Instead, I would like to bring forth evidence that is very well known to the medical community that supports a smoke-free workplace.
Some of us, obviously, hold it a little more dearly than others.

UPDATE: Phil Miller notes as well the passing of the Bandana Brewpub.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Stay home and drink? 

Apparently, not too many do.

Scott Adams and Chad Cotti, "Drunk driving after the passage of smoking bans in bars." J. Public Economics 92 (5-6), June 2008, page 1288-1305.
Using geographic variation in local and state smoke-free bar laws in the US, we observe an increase in fatal accidents involving alcohol following bans on smoking in bars that is not observed in places without bans. Although an increased accident risk might seem surprising at first, two strands of literature on consumer behavior suggest potential explanations � smokers driving longer distances to a bordering jurisdiction that allows smoking in bars and smokers driving longer distances within their jurisdiction to bars that still allow smoking, perhaps through non-compliance or outdoor seating. We find evidence consistent with both explanations. The increased miles driven by drivers wishing to smoke and drink offsets any reduction in driving from smokers choosing to stay home following a ban, resulting in increased alcohol-related accidents. This result proves durable, as we subject it to an extensive battery of robustness checks.
Here's a report from ScienceDirect, and an earlier draft of the paper. Hennepin County 2005 is in this sample, which covers 2000-2005 for 117 counties that had bans in at least one full year. Add this to the evidence already existing on the economic impact of smoking bans, and the case against them grows.

Thanks to my colleague Phil Grossman for the link.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

First they came for your cigarettes, and then for your arts 

Discussing the recent attempt by bars to circumvent the smoking ban in Minnesota by exploiting a loophole allowing actors to smoke on stage, James Lileks notes:
But the underlying issue is amusing, too: if the legislators want to cinch the loophole shut, this means the state will regulate not only the content of a theatrical performance but the definition of a theatrical performance.

In the olden times, of course, everyone knew what a play was, and what it wasn�t. People standing on a stage thee-and-thouing to a seated audience: a play. People milling saying anything that came into their heads: not a play. But having redefined theater to mean anything its practitioners wish it to be, we accept with shrugs the idea of a spontaneous plotless event as theater. And now the state has to say it�s not. Moreover, the state will base its decision on the intentions of the play�s author. Heck of a precedent.
Delightful, and yes indeedy, it looks like Tom Huntley will be delighted to be thrown into that briar patch.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Several thoughts on cigarettes 

Spurred by an email from Marcus Aurelius, who probably thinks I forgot about it, some random notes on smoking that I've found over the last few days.
  1. Mark was initially pointing me towards a summary article on the economic effects of smoking bans from the St. Louis Federal Reserve. Be it on Delaware racinos or bars and restaurants around the University of Missouri, the effects appear to be negative, though with levels that are rather modest. One might wonder if somehow bar owners could be compensated for their losses based on the evidence provided. That would drive up city or state expenditures, however.
  2. When you tax an activity in a locale, the typical result is that business shifts to the jurisdictions that don't bear the tax. The Tax Foundation highlights tax evasion from a $3 a pack increase in taxes on cigarettes in New York City. Much of the tax evasion for outstate New York residents (who only faced a $1.50 a pack hike) went to Native American reservations. Just as hypothesized by Minnesotans opposed to our smoking ban, " small businesses tend to be the ones hit hardest" by the cigarette tax increase in NYC.
  3. When two jurisdictions are adjacent to each other and one has a smoking ban but the other doesn't, the result appears to be more drunk driving, and more fatalities. Of course, our friends in Minnesota will argue this is just cause for a statewide ban, and for actively lobbying neighboring states to ban as well. Is a nationwide ban far off?

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Submitted for your comment 

On the KNSI Morning Show -- on which I will guest-host 21-23 January -- Don Lyons and the gang discussed a rather disturbing story from Germany.
A T-shirt using a yellow Star of David to liken the treatment of smokers in Germany to that of Jews during Nazi rule has angered German Jews.

...The shirt features a yellow Star of David similar to the one Jews were forced to wear under the Nazis. The world "smoker" is written across the star instead of "Jew."

Graumann said the sale of the T-shirt did nothing to help German smokers. Instead, it reminded Germans � Jews and otherwise � of worse times, he said.

"It is unimaginative, brainless and tasteless," he said.

...A statement on the site said the shirt had been designed to highlight what it called the "disgraceful exclusion" of smokers by society.

"After decades of tolerance, the smoker is being denounced as an outcast, a second-class human being," the online statement said.

The office of the public prosecutor in Itzehoe said Friday that it was investigating whether the shirt broke any German laws.

"We are checking if this case can be treated as a criminal offense," prosecutor Ralph Doepper told The Associated Press.
The story should disturb both pro-smoking and anti-smoking groups. Please use the comment box to discuss the story; if I'm wrong and it doesn't disturb you, please tell me why. If it does, how does it?


Monday, December 31, 2007

First it was pop cans 

You remember perhaps from a few months ago a pop-can smuggling scam? Yes, it's just like that old Seinfeld episode with Kramer and Newman taking the U-Haul to Michigan, and when it happened in real life I had a chuckle about it reading the story probably on Fark.

But understand the mechanism: The government creates a rule that requires us to pay deposits on cans. The cans have a legal price well above their price in the market without this price control. Some governments place a higher legal price than others. Ergo, those who get pop cans in the low-legal-price states have some incentive to move those cans to the high-legal-price states. It's an artificial incentive, one created by government, which government then has to prevent by creating the pop-can police.

It's happening again with cigarettes in Maryland. There, the cigarette tax is doubling:
So, two cartons, with 20 packs and 400 cigarettes, would sell for $127 in Maryland but only $77 in Virginia. Our previous report on illegal cigarette smuggling showed it was on the rise because of high cigarette taxes, and in this case, such an illegal transaction could net the smuggler a lucrative $50, or 65 percent profit. Plus there's online smuggling too.
It doesn't take a U-Haul trailer to get a carton of cigarettes across the border.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Mrs. Scholar's latest 

The fairer half writes again about smoking bans. Predictably it draws some fire from commenters.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

But I thought the benefits outweighed the costs! 

St. Louis County Commissioner Keith Nelson said Tuesday he plans to introduce a resolution at next Tuesday�s board meeting that would reduce for several years liquor license fees, to help them transition to when the new statewide smoking ban law goes into effect on Oct. 1.

�I�m looking at this as a business retention tool,�� Nelson told other County Board commissioners Tuesday during their Committee of the Whole portion, as a way to help small businesses.

The typical small- to mid-sized business brings in property taxes to the county worth what 10 homestead properties might generate. �This is a valuable industry to us,�� Nelson explained. �They pay a lot of property taxes.��

The county collects about $84,000 annually from on-sale liquor licenses. Nelson is proposing that the fees be adjusted by an amount not to exceed 50 percent per license for two years, starting next year, and to add a third year to reduced fees if the total number of licenses declines by more than 10 percent in the first two years, or 5 percent annually.

While fees vary according to different criteria, a typical on-sale liquor license issued by the county can cost $1,000 each.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Mrs. Scholar's latest column 

On the newly passed smoking ban is up. As one would have predicted, the supporters of the ban are in high dudgeon. My short answer: Treat the ban as a regulatory taking, pay off the bars for the loss of their property rights. If that's too expensive for you, then there's proof that the ban is inefficient.

UPDATE: A discussion broke out over whether one could sue for a regulatory taking. I don't pretend to understand the law that well, but from what I see there hasn't been a case put that looks quite like the Minnesota law yet. There was an Ohio case heard in 2005, D.A.B.E. v City of Toledo, but the 6th Circuit held only that the level of restriction was not enough to meet the requirements of a regulatory taking. Ohio allows a separate room for smokers to bring in their own food and drink (no employees allowed), and while that adds costs to businesses it wasn't in that court's view preventing "beneficial use" of the bar owner's property. The Minnesota law doesn't allow that possibility and thus might be considered closer to meeting the facial test for a regulatory taking. I have not seen a case in California, which has a law closer to the Minnesota law. I wonder if climate matters, so that a complete ban in Minnesota is more a taking than, say, one in Florida.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

The next use of the tobacco settlement money 

Britain leads the way.
Britain's senior road safety campaigners are calling for a ban on smoking while driving, in an attempt to cut the number of crashes.

The Department of Health said last night that it would seriously consider a ban, which is also being looked at in Germany, Australia and America. The move was backed by anti-smoking campaigners but drew criticism from others as an attack on personal freedom. From 1 July, England will join the rest of the UK by introducing a ban on smoking in enclosed public places and at work.

...'Driving is a complicated business, especially with the high volume of traffic motorists have to contend with these days. It's not an area where you can multi-task,' said Simon Ettinghausen, a spokesman for the association. He said the existing law banning the use of hand-held mobile phones in cars showed special bans were more effective than general road-safety legislation.

'In this country, we're libertarians, we like to give people freedoms, but if you are distracted unfortunately your freedom to do these things can affect other people's lives,' he added. Last year there were 3,201 deaths on Britain's roads.

Rep. Severson, call your office!

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Profiles in courage, Republican edition 

"Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it." -- Abraham Lincoln.

"Minnesotans have asked for this because they're tired of breathing smoke in public places," said Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud. "The only way that this ban works is across the board with few exceptions. Across the board, make it even."

"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same." --Ronald Reagan

"Today we're talking about the freedom to breathe for those people who do not smoke," said Rep. Dan Severson, R-Sauk Rapids, one of the bill's authors. "Forty years ago you could smoke anywhere. Twenty years ago they banned it out of airplanes. Ten years ago California put in a smoking ban. This is time for this particular bill."

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