There’s smoke, and there’s smoke

The City of Austin is considering a pretty extensive public ban on smoking. As others have noted, this is a matter that gets people pretty riled. The proposed ordinance is pretty sever, in that it would ban outdoor smoking at most places where people might smoke.

Now, I hate cigarettes. I’ve never smoked a single one, and a discarded cigarette butt is only slightly less disgusting to me than is a turd. But this really does go too far. I can co-exist with smokers outdoors, for crying out loud. By over-reaching, this ordinance simply invites ridicule and non-compliance.

But if it passes, I may try to get the city to consider another ordinance that could do a world of good for public health: a ban on motor vehicles in the city. Cigarette smoke is a nuisance, but probably hasn’t significantly impaired my health. Motor vehicles have. And some of the trucks around her belch diesel exhaust that puts any smoker to shame. I don’t know how many deaths can be attributed to cigarettes per year in Austin, but I’m guessing there must be about 1,000 deaths attributable to motor vehicles every year here. That’s a lot–and the cause of death is simply beyond dispute, which is not the case with, say, lung cancer. Nobody says “well, the car running that guy over may have been a contributing factor in his death, but there were a number of genetic and lifestyle factors that may have accelerated his demise.” Nope. The car ran him over, he died.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking. People need transportation. Despite their drawbacks, transportation plays a vital role in any economy, and we won’t be able to replace cars overnight. Ok, but, umm…think of the children!

3 thoughts on “There’s smoke, and there’s smoke”

  1. I totally agree with your sentiments on the harshness of the proposition. Do you know what the current council sentiment / likelihood of passing is? I’m curious.

    I think that beyond not restricting outdoor smoking, establishment owners should be given the option of creating separate, walled smoking areas (with no service, to be staff-friendly).

    Bazima detailed some of the trials of the New York smoking ban: There was a loophole which allowed for separate smoking rooms, bar owners built them, and then Pataki signed a new law making the rooms illegal for smoking.

  2. Jeremy – As I’ve blogged (and have recently been noticing elsewhere), the bar owner that are crying for a compromise won’t even run the fans to disburse the smoke. Why do you think they are going to spend thousands of dollars on facilities when they won’t use the ones they already have?

    Adam – I suspect you’ve gotten some bum propaganda. The ordinance is in plain language, so you may prefer to just read it. The latest draft I’ve seen was at

    The fact is that the ordinance would restrict smoking in a *public place*, which it defines as “an enclosed area.” The prohibition does extend for 25 feet outside windows and entrances, which I suspect is what somebody is misrepresenting as “it bans outdoors smoking.”

    I actually think the 25 feet is a problem. There should be some sort of reasonable accomodation for somebody to grab a smoke, say, on 6th Street. But that’s a matter that can be worked, and doesn’t call for “ohmigod they are nazis” hysterics.

  3. I think we’re all talking about the same thing here. The 25′ rule is a problem. Take my favorite hangout, Flight Path. They have an indoor area and a patio. All (or very nearly all) of the patio is within 25′ of a door. So no smoking at Flight Path, even outside. No venue of reasonable size could have a smoking patio.

    And I wonder about a venue like Stubbs. They have a huge outdoor area, but it has walls. Is it “enclosed”? Maybe there’s a legal definition for that, I dunno. I think if a cop wanted to be an asshole, he could say it was enclosed and write them a ticket, so that they’d at least need to waste time and money fighting it. At any rate, I was at a show there the other night, there were smokers, but my clothes didn’t stink when I came home.

    The NYC law actually makes public cigarette smoking a more expensive offense (for venue owners) than pot smoking (for individuals), which is pretty weird.

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