Friday, January 27, 2006

Questions for Dave Thune. Self Service.

Obviously I have been thinking about the ridiculous smoking ban for many weeks. I disagree with it strongly and believe it is an issue of private property, not public health. If someone is concerned with smoke, it is their responsibility to make choices. Once the choices come down from on high, all can be decreed. Will home owners be ticketed for not more vociferously keeping dog from shitting on the grass between street and sidewalk? It's messy and smells bad, just like smoke, yes?

At any rate, here's my long list of questions. I hope you will ask them of King Thune. He will be on the radio, AM 1280 The Patriot, tomorrow, Jan 28th from 10:00 to11:00 AM. I've grouped them in small clusters; the clusters don't follow or preceed in a logical sequence. Take your pick. King Thune, for ill or good, is our rep, and, as such, has no exemption from questioning.

I am interested in reading the scientific studies upon which you based the justification for the smoking ban. Will you please not just refer me to them but cite them for me please, both the pro and con studies?

Have you read these studies yourself? If not, why not?

What are the most compelling opposing arguments, those which refute the second hand smoke assertions. Did you read the literature on all sides?

How much weight did the council give to anecdotal assertions, if any?

How does the City Council intend to monitor and therefore assess the health impacts of the smoking ban? If there are no measures in place to do this, why not? If not, when?

Since it is inevitable that bars and restaurants will have their cash flows impacted negatively, how will you compare this metric against “health gains”?

Besides an outright ban, what other measures did the council consider? Why were
these others rejected? If no others, why not?

Am I correct in understanding the purpose of this ordinance, among other things, is to protect the health of non-smoking employees. Since a mass firing of all non-smoking employees, an act which immediately diminishes the health risk to zero, would be have been economically unacceptable, why is it acceptable to pass on an economic loss to business and property owners?

If an employee is seriously concerned about a smoky work environment, isn’t it their responsibility to make different choices?

If you wanted to achieve your results, (i.e. protecting the non-smoker), using incentives
instead of prohibition, the motive being to avoid negative $ impacts on your fellow citizens of
St. Paul, what might those have been? If you didn't look at any of these, how did you decide
they could be overlooked?

Why didn’t you legislate the wearing of fume and vapor filters, (or gas masks!) for all non-smoking employees and non-smoking patrons? Surely the inconvenience to these people is far less costly than an outright ban? What’s a silly appearance in comparison to public health?

On a replay of Almanac recently you said you didn't "feel" there would be economic impacts.
This of course is spurious; cash flows will be impacted, and they will be reduced not increased,
by constricting the customers. Did you think there could possibly be bankruptcies? How many
would be too many? How many are acceptable? If you say there won't be any at all, how '
do you know? Based on what? Did you examine these contingencies at all?

You think you have set a public health policy, you have made an economic policy decision. Why do I say this? How might a distinction be made? If the economic costs exceed the health benefits, it is economic policy. As a hypothetical, let’s suppose there are some public health policy positions, decisions about which there is no dispute to their nature. The question is the weight of one versus the other. For example, food monitoring in restaurants. Clearly the former. Did you think along these lines? If not, why not?

Let’s suppose the smoking policy causes terrible economic problems in St. Paul. Has the City Council thought about this contingency? If not, why not?

Because if you are wrong on the economic impacts of the ordinance, are you prepared to modify it, or even rescind it until better options can be implemented? If not, how can we, the people, have any confidence in any future predictive abilities of the City Council? Why should we trust you in big things if you are wrong in the small?

Question for Dave Thune if he continues to deny economic negatives:
If there will be no economic impacts, why offer the City's help "in the transition to a non-smoking environment"? Why should someone who neither smokes, no goes to bars or restaurants at all have to help pay for this help? (note:Smoothing Plane drinks and eats at home.)

Isn’t the City’s offer to help make “the transition to a non-smoking environment” a tacit admission of impacts upon property owners? What dollar amount estimates have you made? If not, why not?

Since the “help” admits the likelihood of economic distress for property owners,
and if extreme enough to cause the closing of at least the smaller, serve no food establishments,
why is the loss employment for those the act purports to protect unacceptable in the case of
mass firings, yet acceptable through a death-by-a-thousand-cut attrition? Did the council explore
this contingency at all? If not, why not?

Many questions about exploring contingencies have been asked. Was your plan simply to run with the ban because you had the votes, hope for the best, and cling with absolute faith to the proposition that health is being protected?

What form will the “help” from the City take? Making up the shortfalls in income? In perpetuity? Vouchers for free drinks? Reductions in taxes? Help with insurance premiums?

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