The End Of The Session

Today marks the day that total indoor smoking bans come into effect in every pub and nightclub in WA.

With a colder than usual winter this year, the next few months are going to be very difficult for those who work in the entertainment industry.

Even when summer comes, WA’s incredibly strict liquor licensing laws mean that many pubs will be unable to get renovations approved to install outdoor smoking areas. (Any such alterations have to be announced to the community in advance, and any objections from the cranky old lady down the street mean that they probably won’t be approved).

I expect quite a few places to go under, and many barstaff to lose their jobs (but hey, at least you won’t have to breathe in passive smoke standing in the dole queue, fellas. Centrelink has been smoke-free for years!).

I visited Los Angeles in 1998 after they enacted their smoking bans. Many pubs and clubs had actually gone to the trouble to install smoke machines to make the place seem more like a bar and less like a hospital. That sort of thing is unlikely to happen here though, as most WA operators don’t understand the concept of catering to punters, and will likely just close down instead.

The most boring city in the developed world just got a little more boring.

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30 Comments on “The End Of The Session”

  1. hc Says:

    The people who don’t enjoy tobacco smoke while they have a drink will be better-off. Our local bar banned smoking and custom increased.

    And while not dying of cancer may be boring I can live with it.

  2. yobbo Says:

    Harry: Everyone has a story about how the local bar banned smoking and business increased.

    It begs the question why more bars didn’t do it before it was mandatory if it is so good for business.

    It also begs the question why it is necessary to make it mandatory if there are already a good amount of non-smoking bars around.

    And there is no proven link between passive smoking and cancer, which is why none of the advertising and campaigning on this issue mentions cancer – the benefits are supposedly a fresh, cleaner environment and no bad smell. If they could get away with saying that passive smoking causes cancer then they would.

  3. hc Says:

    Some of them are banning smoking to increase business. My local bar did so not because it was compelled to do so but because customers complained about smoke.

    Smoking is an incredibly dangerous form of behaviour and the major preventable cause of death. I posted on your post here where I disciuss my reasons further for supporting this ban.

    I agree the evidence on passive smoking is questionable. I still don’t want to inhale someone else’s cigarette smoke.

  4. yobbo Says:

    “Some of them are banning smoking to increase business. My local bar did so not because it was compelled to do so but because customers complained about smoke.”

    I’m all in favour of local businesses taking it upon themselves to do this sort of thing. They should be allowed to ban smoking if they think it will increase business. Equally, they should be allowed to allow smoking if they think it will increase business.

    I wouldn’t visit a non-smoking bar but I fully support their right to exist. And that is the difference between you and me.

    Would it really hurt you if a bar you never went to allowed smoking inside? No. But still you demand it be smoke-free.

    “I agree the evidence on passive smoking is questionable. I still don’t want to inhale someone else’s cigarette smoke.”

    And as a sufferer of grass allergies, I don’t want to inhale grass clippings or pollen. In fact the health risk to me from grass cuttings is much, much higher than the risk anybody suffers from passive smoking. Yet I do not have the right to call for banning of grass or lawns in the state.

    At least if you don’t want to inhale cigarette smoke you can just not go to the pub. I can’t do anything about environmental grass particles.

  5. Jason Soon Says:

    I fully agree with yobbo on this, harry. Let self selection sort it out. If there’s a market niche for bars with no smokers someone will fill it, if there’s a market niche for people like me who don’t smoke but don’t give a toss about being around smokers then someone will cater to that, and ditto for smokers who want to just have a bar to themselves. Why is this an issue?

  6. hc Says:

    Rational choice models never favor banning anything. Cigarette smoking is a dumb activity that almost all smokers themselves resent ever initiating. The dangers of smoking are acute and ceasing smoking – even for long-term smokers – is highly beneficial.

    Let’s end this mistake by steath. End the nexus between booze and smoking and provide people with ever opportunity to regain self-control and end this damaging habit. Ex smokers will thank us for restricting their choices because they are addicted to niciotine and experience self-control problems. It is not a rational choice issue.

    Grass clippings are not the major preventable cause of death in the world today. Smoking is.

  7. Troy Says:

    I think the ban is stupid but have found that there is no point arguing with people about this sort of stuff (sunday trading etc). People either get it or they dont, they are either busybodies who want everyone do the things they like to do and not do the things they personally dont like or they dont. What I’m saying is there are 2 types of people; decent folk and cunts.

  8. John Humphreys Says:

    It’s interesting to see Harry being honest about his actual desire for the government to make people’s smoking decisions for them. The debate then moves to the old grounds of whether freedom includes the freedom to make mistakes (or only the freedom to make the correct-according-to-harry decisions) and whether smoking necessarily is a mistake.

    Note that regretting smoking doesn’t make it a mistake. It is possible that the benefits come early and the costs come later — so it is a rational decision but when you’re in the cost phase you obviously wish you didn’t have to pay the costs (and the benefits are long gone). Like paying for a holiday on credit.

  9. hc Says:

    John I agree the move is illiberal and only makes sense in a liberal setting if you believe there are self-control issues. I emphatically believe the latter. There is lots of evidence to suggest so. We know young people have high discount rates and engage in risky behaviour. When they are older (and have lower discount rates) and addicted to nicotine it makes no sense to say they made ‘rational mistakes’ when younger.

    Its not just regretting smoking – you are right that the damages might come late and you might have got a lot of pleasure from smoking earlirer on. But I think most smokers think they made a mistake ever using. This can be exhibited in practical ways – for example strongly advising others not to start etc. I do this with my own kids.

    Both you and Sam are ducking the issue. Its not just a ‘mistake’ like choosing the wrong flavoured jellybean – it is a catastrophic mistake – the biggest preventable case of death in the developed world. It explains 50% of the difference in death rates between rich and poor people.

    I think you are using liberal ideology – you might say ‘principle’ – to avoid looking at an urgent health issue that can be resolved in one generation.

  10. yobbo Says:

    I’m not ducking any issue. Making mistakes is part of life. It is not the role of government to prevent people from making mistakes that only affect themselves.

    What you fail to consider Harry, is that not everyone values their personal longevity over all other things. And it is not the role of government to tell them that they must, by way of restriction or banning any activity that could increase their chances of an early death.

    If that was the way we did things, then anything that is fun would be banned, from motor racing to unprotected sex. Just about any time you rise from bed or leave your house, you are increasing the risk of dying an early death. Whether or not that risk is worth the reward is not something that the government has the right to decide.

  11. John Humphreys Says:

    Hazza!! Mate!!!

    Come now, let’s get this right. In a liberal setting it doesn’t matter if there are “self-control issues”. Freedom means the freedom to make mistakes. Even catastrophic mistakes.

    But while most people like the rhetoric of freedom, paternalism is a hellova lot more popular, which must they must couch their argument in utilitarian terms (if I force them to live my life, they’ll be happier) and only use “freedom” in places where they can keep the meaning ambiguous.

    I am a liberal and so nothing more need be said to convince me. Perhaps with enough energy I could convince you of the virtues of liberty, but let me put of that endeavour until I am really really bored, and comment on utility.

    It makes perfect sense to talk about making rational “mistakes”. You give no reason to suggest otherwise. Of course many smokers who are regretting having smoked say they made a mistake starting — they are experience their current reality now, whereas their benefits are long gone. We all have a bias towards the present. That doesn’t show they are right now, any more than smoking previously showed they were right previously.

    I am sure that some people actually do get a net negative in life from smoking, but which people? I am also sure that some get a positive, but who? Do you know? I don’t. I’m fairly sure John Howard doesn’t. The impact of smoking is variable for different people — much like the impact of sky-diving or skiing or cricket or drinking, etc. I’m sure mistakes are made in all of these endeavours — what I doubt is that there is any judge better than the individual.

    By the nature of statistics, SOMTHING always has to be the biggest cause of death (unless nobody dies). So what? As Sam said, there is more to life than simple longevity. For me at least.

    As for “liberal ideology” v “liberal principle” — what do you think is the difference. If “ideology” means you’re accusing me of having ideas, then I plead guilty. What do you have?

  12. hc Says:

    John,let me at least spell out my assumptions. A young bloke wants to start smoking. If he does he will get extra utility now worth $10,000. But from next period on he will lose utility of minus $100,000 because of health costs. He then has no chance to reverse his earlier choice to smoke because he is addicted to nicotine. I am a social planner and I believe I know all the facts here because I have observed a generation of people who damage themselves long-term by smoking and who find it hard to quit smoking.

    This young bloke elects to smoke now because he is impulsive – he has a high discount rate – and places no weight on future costs. If he waits until next period he will not smoke because he knows that while he will get $10,000 immediately he will lose, say $80,000, longer term and now he is less impulsive – has a lower discount rate.

    So I act (yes) paternalistically to restrict his right to choose to smoke. He loses the $10,000 pleasure and hates me for that but is $100,000 better-off next period so I think I have done him a favour. Your claim is that I have done him a disservice by denying his opportunity to make this ‘mistake’. That freedom means the freedom to make mistakes, even catastrophic mistakes. That in fact I am forcing him to ‘live my life’.

    I agree – I am denying that right – but I am saving a huge cost by preventing him from exercising his defective lack of foresight. Also I have lots od scientific support – it is not a capricious judgment. I am confident he will be better-off and after some initial discomfit that even he will agree with me.

    You say we are all time inconsistent and irrationally overweight present experiences but this isn’t true. We are less impulsive as we age. Stopping people now allows them to make better decisions in the future and prevents them from harming themselves.

    You also say that maybe I am wrong in identifying the costs and that longevity is not the only objective. I think longevity is important – most of us recognise death as a negative – but the argument is not contingent on this – addiction to something your utility from consumption falls to low levels once you are addicted although your marginal disutility of not consuming is high.

    You also say something always has to be the biggest cause of death. The biggest cause of death is probably aging – but it isn’t preventable – and I wrote of preventable deaths.

    I think Libertarian ideas that stress freedom are attractive – we don’t want the nanny state to interfere with our lives. But if you can avoid overwhelming costs of individuals by means of a simple intervention – why not? Is it only for reasons of quasi-religious purity? If so you sound as bad as the ideological left – preprogrammed minds that can’t accept simple measures that improve peoiple’s lives dramatically.

  13. Lesley de Voil Says:

    I’m with Harry on his one, Yobbo, but not because of his economcs. To paraphrase Voltaire (sort of), your right to pollute the atmosphere with tobacco smoke ceases at the end of your nose.

  14. yobbo Says:

    Does that include inside my own house, Lesley? Or are you next going to come and tell me I can’t smoke in my own house because you might visit me someday?

    A bar is no different. The bar belongs to the owner, not the government or the public.

  15. John Humphreys Says:

    I understood your thinking already Hazza — but thanks. The problem is that you have no way of actually measuring the acutal preferences, benefits and costs of that “young bloke”. You may believe it, but the reality is that you don’t know all the facts and never can. Perhaps the benefit is $200,000? You don’t know.

    The fact that people damage themselves smoking and have trouble quitting is not relevant. That would exist irrespective of whether you were right or not.

    As for my “claim” that freedom includes the freedom to make mistakes… that is not a hard concept to agree with. Indeed, no other definition of freedom makes any sense. Even under Pol Pot, people were “free” to do exactly what they were told! You may not value freedom, but (1) you should; and (2) other people do.

    There is no (and can never be) scientific support to show that the costs of smoking outweight the benefits to any particular individual. I find it strange that you would suggest otherwise.

    I didn’t say it was irrational to overweight present experiences. Fine — old people may (may) make better decisions — so when do we give people freedom? When they’re 50? When they’re your age?

    My comments on longevity are also not controversial. Nobody is denying that life is good… but people often trade risk for reward and fun for longevity. Only each individual can know the correct trade off.

    There is always a cause of death.

  16. hc Says:

    John, So your reason for rejecting moves to end smoking is based on the idea that critics of smoking are uncertain of their facts. They are not. The evidence is clear.

    Typically young people are prevented from doing certain things that involves self- destructive conduct. Modern research suggests the brain is actively growing into the mid-20 age group.

    There’s a difference between Pol Pot teklling people to commit genocide and trying to stop foolish kids from killing themselvves with cigarettes. And you see adopting behaviour that substantially increases your chance of dying as an individually resolvable risk-reward trade-off. Its an extreme and iirrational position.

    As I say freedom is great but insisting on freedom of choice even when it damages life itself is an ideological not a rational idea.


  17. H-dogg, my reasons for rejecting bans on smoking are many.

    However, it is certainly true (contrary to what you write) that the “dear leaders” are uncertain of the facts. That is only to be expected because the individual preferences of each individual is something beyond the power of bureaucrats and politicians (no matter how good you think they are) to determine.

    The reality is, pappa-H, that you have no idea what value I put on smoking or the value I put on longevity or the value I put on everything else. You also don’t know Sam’s value set. Or my dad’s value set. Or Don Burke’s value set. And without knowing these values you cannot know what behaviour is appropriate to maximise utility.

    Look Harinator, as uncomforable as this might be, you need to accept that there is a lot of diversity in the world and you probably don’t know what each person in the world wants.

    I agree that young people may make more mistakes than adults. That is why we have an age limit which distinguishes between responsible and free adults, and minors. But once we accept a person as a functional free member of society we need to learn to respect their freedom, even if we cringe at what we think is a mistake (I’m sure I would cringe looking at many parts of your lifestyle, & vis-versa).

    The only option is to give the decision-making power over to a group that doesn’t have each individual’s best interest at heart and has a track record at failing at nearly every endeavour it has started. I find it amazing that you distrust people to make their own decisions, but you trust the government to make better ones!

    Of course there is a difference between Pol Pot and smoking laws. It was an analogy… and an analogy is never identical to the point at hand! Obviously. But the point (which I thought was fairly clear, and so I think you’re being disingenious in pretending you don’t understand) was that freedom means the freedom to do what your leaders think is wrong.

    The “freedom” to do what your told is not freedom.

    Yes, I see a decision to smoke as an individual risk-reward trade-off. That is exactly what it is. There is a reward and there is a risk. And they trade-off. I really can’t see what part of that sentence you’re trying to disagree with. It is not irrational to make trade-offs. It is not extreme to make trade-offs. You’re starting to not make sense.

    You may say “freedom is great” but you don’t mean it. Once again, I emplore you to try and understand what freedom means. It doesn’t mean the “freedom” to make the decisions that Haz agrees with. By everything you’ve written you’ve shown that you don’t value freedom, and you value telling other people how to live their lives (which is the opposite of freedom).

    And lots of activities will decrease your life expectancy. If you believe (as you clearly imply by you last sentence) that any activity that decreases life expectancy should be banned then you also want to ban drinking, skiing, bungy-jumping, ski-diving, scuba-diving, driving, sun-baking etc etc. Come on Harry! Surely even you aren’t that strict in your fanatical paternalism!? Even if you want to live in a bubble for the rest of your life, surely you can see that some people are different (yes, different — don’t be scared) to you and want to take some risks and make some trade-offs. I know I do.

  18. hc Says:

    John, I am not a ‘fanatical paternalist’ and your logic runs astray here. But again you get back to the claim that I don’t know the psychic costs and benefits that a particular individual derives from smoking. Well most of the scientific community believe they do – at least on average – and come up with the view that the net benefits are negative. Low initial positive satisfaction, no satisfaction at all while addicted (relative to the utility of not ever smoking) and disasterous years of pain putting up with emphysema and so on that are a consequence of sustained smoking.

    If you can stop impulsive youth from smoking the habit will dissapear in a generation. I do not support outright bans but I do support providing incentives for smokers to quit and for non-smokers to not initiate the habit.

    I also support compulsory education up to a minimum age, compulsory wearing of seatbelts and compulsory taxes to fund our defence forces and social security system. And so do most citizens who don’t get in a stew about paternalism.

  19. yobbo Says:

    “I do not support outright bans but I do support providing incentives for smokers to quit and for non-smokers to not initiate the habit.”

    This entire thread is about an outright ban that you support. So do you support it or not?

  20. hc Says:

    Sam, I do not favour prohibition. People can smoke but must pay hefty taxes for the external health costs they impose on others and cannot stuff up the air that others breathe. In addition I think people have self-control problems with respect to smoking which are worsened by boozing. Hence breaking the booze-tobacco nexus improves their ability to overcome nicotine addiction. So yes I have a paternalistic streak that sugeests people should be protected against their own foolishness.

    I am one of those weirdos who values life.

  21. yobbo Says:

    “People can smoke but must pay hefty taxes for the external health costs they impose on others and cannot stuff up the air that others breathe.”

    Where can they smoke then Harry? You have already taken away the right for individuals to smoke on their own property because other people that visit might not like it. Banning smoking in a privately owned bar is no different than banning smoking in a privately owned house. In both cases if you don’t like the smoke you are not being forced to come.

    Should the government prevent me from smoking in my own house if you come over for a cup of coffee? If not, then why is the situation any different in a bar or restaurant? These are not some kind of public playground, Harry. They are privately owned land and buildings, and the owners should have the right to decide whether or not anyone can smoke inside them, just as they can in their home.

    “I am one of those weirdos who values life.”

    Weirdos who blow up abortion clinics would use the same excuse.

    You value what you value. The fact that your values might be different to other people’s doesn’t seem to register with you.

  22. yobbo Says:

    “If you can stop impulsive youth from smoking the habit will dissapear in a generation.”

    What a ridiculous comment Harry. People have smoked tobacco for thousands of years. Prohibition of anything has never managed to break anyone’s habits before, what gives you the idea that it will be any different for cigarettes?

  23. werewolf Says:

    Stop smoking and move cities. Problem solved.

  24. petal Says:

    smoking in a privately owned bar is no different than banning smoking in a privately owned house.

    So the doors to your house remain open during business hours, so that people can wander in and out at will, and you don’t know who those people in your house are going to be?

    I think it’s a LIIIIITTLE bit different and I think it’s a relevant point.

    On the issue of grass cuttings, I have the same allergy. Of COURSE people can cut their lawns. However, I would be worried if people were throwing it about everywhere, leaving it on the footpath, not cleaning it up properly etc. and these events are covered by local laws and the EPA.

  25. yobbo Says:

    So the doors to your house remain open during business hours, so that people can wander in and out at will, and you don’t know who those people in your house are going to be?

    People can not “wander in and out at will”. Try wandering into a bar at will that has a line outside and see how far you get. Proprieters can deny entry to anyone they like, and often do.

    It is no different than having a party at your house.

    “I would be worried if people were throwing it about everywhere, leaving it on the footpath, not cleaning it up properly etc.”

    So you are saying that as long as people use ashtrays properly and dont litter then smoking should be allowed? Or did I miss your point?

  26. petal Says:

    Nahh, the grass comment was about drawing a line at where responsible behaviour starts. Cutting your grass is fine, but make sure the cuttings are disposed of correctly or you have a health hazard on your hands. Smoking in your own home or out in the open away from others is fine, but smoking in an enclosed public space where others share the (hopefully clean) air, or disposing of the waste inappropriately can also create a health hazard.

    And with regards to that line around that pub, well, I’ll just go to another pub. Plenty that don’t have a line. And you know what – there are in fact houses where you can wander in and out. Find any Jewish house that observes the Sabbath and you can wander to your heart’s content via their open unlocked doors on a Friday night or Saturday morning. Don’t expect to be able to smoke, though. Not making a point, just thought I’d chuck in an interesting fact.🙂

  27. petal Says:

    Two more final points:

    1. Smoking was banned in Victorian restaurants a few years ago, and as a result they are culinary deserts, devoid of patronage, condemned to dust …. NOT!! Way not!

    2. Yobbo, I don’t try and tell people what they should do, and I know you are capable of making your own choices. But you shouldn’t smoke. Please think about quitting, for your own sake. It makes me very sad to see so many people in their twenties smoking so much, as though they’ve convinced themselves that “It’s not as bad for you as people make out”. I hope you’re not saying that mantra to yourself. I know you have your own reasons, but please consider putting a quitting timeline on what is, really, a pretty awful habit.

  28. yobbo Says:

    I don’t know about your allergies Petal, but if any neighbor within 100m of my house cuts their grass, I am sick for days afterwards as a result, purely because of the grass and pollen in the air.

    It doesn’t matter how well they dispose of the clippings afterwards.

    Shouldn’t my health take precedence over their wish to have a garden?


  29. Hazza — whether you´re a ¨fanatical paternalist¨ or a ¨radical paternalist¨ doesn´t really matter. The fact is that you want people to live the ¨fully authorised and approved life of Harry¨ and no alternatives will be tolerated. Bad Harry!

    My logic was perfectly consistent. It was the conclusions you didn´t like. Check carefully what you wrote and what the consequences of your sentences are. If you don´t like the consequences (and no reasonable person would) then consider changing what you wrote. Don´t argue that (as some people do when faced with unfortunate conclusions) ¨logic¨ is evil.

    The scientific community (or any other community) has no way of knowing the psychic benefits of smoking, and no intellegent honest scientist claims otherwise. What the health-nazi community (the mob you listen to, and belong to) knows is the health consequences, and they just keep repeating them because entering the real argument would put them out of their comfort zone. Anything else they say is just speculation.

    Even then the health-nazis inevitably over-play their argument — using irresponsible tricks (like you did) which suggest that all smokers regret their decision and suffer significant health costs. They would defend their lies as being told with good intentions… but that is an sad excuse to that has been used to justify all sorts of historical injustices.

    Your comment about the habit dissapearing in a generation is self-evidently silly. You may want to consider the success of present and past drug and alcohol prohibitions.

    There is no real difference between a ban and a high enough tax & restriction regime… they are both dissincentives designed to control behaviour (and neither will work completely).

    The fact that most people agree with a public defence force adds no weight to your argument, and there is no need to confuse this debate by bringing in red herrings.

    Arguments about compulsory seatbelts and compulsory helmets is another debate deserving attention, but makes no difference to this debate… and there is no need to confuse this debate by bringing in red herrings.

    Arguments about children is irrelevant to the debate at hand because we are talking about free adults, so there is no need to confuse this debate by bringing in red herrings.

    Unless, of course, you are trying to confuse the debate. That would be unfortunate.


  30. Petal says ¨And with regards to that line around that pub, well, I’ll just go to another pub. Plenty that don’t have a line.¨

    Try this line… ¨And with regards to smoking in a pub, well, I´ll just go to another pub. Plenty that have non-smoking areas.¨

    Congratulations… you´ve just discovered the beauty of freedom.

    Just because somebody let´s others on their land, or sells things from their land, doesn´t make it not their land. Your point about Jewish open-houses shows this. Are Jewish houses not private property on the sabbath?


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