Source: New York Voices: "Smoking in the City"
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States across the United States are beginning to ban smoking in public places to protect people from the hazards of second-hand smoke (smoke that permeates the air when people are smoking). This video segment from New York Voices looks at the battle over fresh air in bars and restaurants. Multiple perspectives are presented. Smokers debate it should be their choice to smoke or not smoke. Some resent being told they cannot smoke. On the other hand, nonsmokers are bothered by the smoke and risk the dangers of inhaling second-hand smoke.
Public health, economics, civics
The following Frame, Focus and Follow-up suggestions are best suited for middle school students using this video in an English language arts or social studies lesson. Be sure to modify the questions to meet your students' instructional needs.
What is Frame, Focus and Follow-up?
Frame (ELA) What is a debate? When do we see or hear debates?
Focus (ELA) What are the people in this video segment debating? What perspectives or points of view are presented?
Follow Up (ELA) Discuss how a person’s perspective is influenced. For example, what influences the woman smoker’s perspective?
Frame (SS) What kind of legislation do we have that restricts the rights of people? List and discuss. Why do we have these laws?
Focus (SS) Describe the ways laws that ban smoking affect various types of people and industries.
Follow Up (SS) Is it fair to restrict the rights of citizens through legislation? In what situations do you agree or disagree with legislation that restricts citizens’ rights and choices?
WOMAN: you want to find a place where you can smoke and that's increasingly more and more difficult. I think for smokers, the cigarette is considered part of the meal.
MAN: I can't think of having my morning coffee without my cigarette. It's one of life's pleasures. It's a royal pain in the bum to have puritans tell me I can't do it. Well, I don't want to be protected and if somebody doesn't want to be in a place for "secondhand smoke," don't go there! And I resent the hell out of government telling me that I can or cannot do this sort of a thing. It's a matter of personal choice.
WOMAN: For the non smoker, I think hanging out with a group of smokers, I think it can just be very painful for them. They end up smelling like smoke, they end up breathing it in, their eyes are burning, where the smokers don't even notice the smoke. So for me, I do try to make compromises, I do try to accommodate the different habits of the different people in the group. And I try to respect that because it's fair and valid. The proposed new laws that would ban smoking in public areas, such as bars and restaurants; again, I feel conflicted about them. The whole point of being in a bar is to be social. So you don't want to leave your friends, but you're going through this addictive craving. On the other hand, I feel it might motivate me more to quit smoking.
MAN: We have many more serious, more important issues to be addressed than something like smoking, or bicycle riding or what have you, you know? I mean, it's ludicrous. People found ways of drinking during Prohibition, and I guess I'll find ways of smoking.
WOMAN: I'm standing outside the bar right now, smoking my cigarette and if the law gets passed that says that we can't smoke inside restaurants and bars, this will probably become more of an everyday occurrence for me, but perhaps it will be a motivator towards a better lifestyle and I will have to wait and see what happens with the legislation and what the people of New York City have to say about it.
INTERVIEWER: Dr. Thomas Frieden, commissioner of New York City's Department of Health and mental hygiene. If this proposed ban on smoking goes into effect, what new areas will be off limit to New York smokers?
DR. FRIEDEN: This isn't the ban on smoking, this is a statute that would make sure that no New York City worker would have to risk cancer, heart disease and lung disease just to hold a job. The places that would be covered would include all restaurants and currently, only large restaurants are covered, bars, bingo parlors, bowling alleys and offices.
INTERVIEWER: If second hand smoking is as hazardous as you say, why stop at bars and restaurants and pool halls and bowling alleys? Why not include all public spaces? You know, the city street or city owned departments, where kids and other non smokers are very much in danger of second hand smoking?
DR. FRIEDEN: This isn't about what people do in the privacy of their own homes, this is about the work place. And since 1970, we've had a very clear conception that there's a governmental mandate to ensure safe work places. Some of that safety is ensured on a national level, some on state level and some at the local level. This is one of those things that the local level can and should regulate.
INTERVIEWER: Ciaran Staunton, we're here at O'Neills's, a bar that you own. Tell us a little about this business.
CIARAN STAUNTON: My wife and I opened this bar five and a half years ago. We're the sole owners, we have less than ten employees, we're in midtown Manhattan. We are a blue collar type bar/restaurant. Most of our customers come in at lunch time for a fast lunch, have a cigarette, go back to work. In the evening time, we have a lot of tourists, we depending on their evening trade. Far tourists, mainly Europeans, they come in, they have their dinner, they tend to smoke quite a bit too.
INTERVIEWER: What about the mayor's and the health department's and everybody else's support to ban on smoking, their principal argument, which is that smoking is hazardous to people who don't smoke, to your patrons who come here and don't smoke, and particularly to your employees.
CIARAN STAUNTON: 75% of my employees smoke; bartenders and waitresses smoke. If people, bartenders and waitresses want to work in non smoking establishments, 56% of all those New York are non smoking. Any of my bartenders or waitresses could get a job in non smoking establishments in the morning. Remember there is a choice. And choice is the word here. Bartenders and waitresses chose to work here. Either they could choose not to work here and work in non smoking establishments. They have that choice right now.
INTERVIEWER: What percentage of your patrons smoke?
CIARAN STAUNTON: I would say about 40% smoke.
INTERVIEWER: What would happen to your business if the mayor's ban on smoking went into effect?
CIARAN STAUNTON: If the mayor's ban on smoking went into effect, I would say we would be gone out of business in less than 12 months.
CIARAN STAUNTON: Yes.
INTERVIEWER: Bar owners, particularly, small bar restaurant owners in the city are saying that if this statute goes into effect, they'll lose their businesses.
DR. FRIEDEN: Yup and they said in 1995 that it would cause havoc. In 1995, the Bar and Restaurant Association said that we would lose tens of thousands of jobs. We gained tens of thousands of jobs. They said we'd lose business, we gained business. All of the negative consequences that you see claim now were claimed in '94 '95 in New York City, were claimed in California, are being claimed in Delaware and Ontario and Canada in Boston, in Massachusetts. All over the country, wherever there has been smoke free workplace legislation, it hasn't hurt business.
CIARAN STAUNTON: I have said time and time again, if there is an idea out there that would be good for my business, New York City Council would not have to pass legislation, I would embrace. And if this mayor is trying to pass legislation that's going to take food off my table, I don't care what its polls are. The only polls I'm talking about is my wife and two children. And the money that gets in here and keeps them going. And what this mayor is doing, what this city council wants is to pass legislation that will deprive my family and my livelihood.
DR. FRIEDEN: We know that more than 400,000 people are being exposed to cancer causing chemicals and we know that even 30 minutes of exposure changes the way your blood clots, changes the way your blood flows through your heart and therefore increases your risk of heart attack. We were amazed to find the level of the most harmful form of pollution is 50 times higher in a smoky bar than it is in the Holland Tunnel at rush hour.
INTERVIEWER: Are bar owners in a better position to determine if this legislation is going to help or hurt their business than you or government in general?
DR. FRIEDEN: Well, they weren't in 1994 and 1995. They said that there would be damage, there was no damage. They said in California, there would be damage, there wasn't damage. People do fear change and frankly Phillip Morris and other tobacco industries are spending a fair amount of money to oppose this legislation and others, but the key to understand is that this is about worker being safe and it won't hurt business. In fact, one very interesting finding is that in California, when the bars went smoke free, they actually picked up market share because people were more willing to spend more time in bars and to buy more product there, whether it was food or drink because it was a less hazardous environment, a less unpleasant environment. A smoke free environment, even many smokers find more pleasant than a smoky environment.
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