FROM THE FORUMS AT WWW.THESTRANGER.COM

POSTED BY JENNY ON OCT 13: Why can't smokers' rights be protected too? Yes, secondhand smoke is dreadful, and I want to be able to go out without being exposed to it. But should I be able to go everywhere and smokers nowhere? That's unfair. I still don't understand why the marketplace can't solve this without legislating away options. If bars do less business if they have smokers then they'll ban smoking. The government has gone way too far protecting the majority and ignoring the rights of the few on this.

POSTED BY FUZE ON OCT 14: I am glad The Stranger is debating this internally. They should be. It is amazing to me that an otherwise liberal/semi-libertarian paper would endorse I-901, but then again, [The Stranger] endorsed Mark Sidran and this is exactly the sort of civility shit he stands for.

On who enforces 901, it is unclear—read the ordinance: It says both (section 5.1) "local law enforcement," i.e., the police, and (5.3) local health departments. It is very unclear who does what. This is a typical problem for 901, which is written very poorly.

Second, consider this. The 901 folks are implying that bar owners might be responsible for keeping people from smoking within 25 feet of their businesses. However, a bar owner has absolutely no authority to do so. If you are at my bar, as soon as you step outside, I have no say over what you do. But if you smoke, I still get ticketed. This is insane—a bad, unenforceable law. The courts will throw that out immediately.

In the case of the Mirabeau Room, the Bus Stop, and several other bars, there is a bus stop within three feet of the front door. 901 allows for people at the bus stop to smoke, and to do so within three feet of my front door. But our customers have to go 25 feet away. There is no place within a three-block radius of the Mirabeau Room that is 25 feet away from a window or door, EXCEPT a small park on the corner of Roy Street and Queen Anne Avenue. This will now become the official smoking park in Lower Queen Anne. I am sure the neighboring condo owners will be PISSED!

The law is well-intentioned, but it is poorly written, extreme, and nannyish. I understand why you might be tempted to support it, but please read through the lies of the pro-901 people and your emotions and look at the law objectively.

POSTED BY GOMEZTICATOR ON OCT 19: I think the big problem is that this ban is going to overwhelmingly pass because it is a smoking ban, not because it's a good, well-written initiative. No one I know knows anything about it other than it's a smoking ban. No one seems interested in the fine print; nonsmokers play-act like they're being choked everywhere by smoke (even though 75 percent of businesses ban or restrict smoking, and need I mention smog?) and that this initiative will eradicate Those Evil Smoking Bastards once and for all. No one, not even the initiative's authors, knows how this law is going to be enforced. Who in the health department has the authority to cite or arrest offenders? Or will the cops enforce the law, even though the initiative itself says a health official will enforce the laws? I'm confused, and so are the initiative's authors. Most of its supporters aren't, though, mainly because they didn't bother to read the initiative at all. Seattle: Intellectual Capital of the Pacific Northwest.

Of course, what do I know? Prohibition worked wonders in the '20s... oh wait.

This discounts all the business that will be lost in bars, restaurants, and nightclubs around Seattle. Smokers will ditch after their first drink, rather than stay and buy more drinks, so they can get their fix. I'm not saying they're right; I'm saying that's what will happen. Since smoking will essentially be banned everywhere in the city (remember the 25-foot radius), they'll have to go home or drive somewhere less populated to do it. A similar initiative was tried in Pierce County, but who the hell goes out on the town in TACOMA? Of course they didn't see a significant effect: They don't have a significant nightlife.

You don't know what you're doing, Seattle. As usual.

POSTED BY SHADY_B_206 ON OCT 19: 901 will hurt business and it takes away freedom. One who sacrifices a little freedom for a little security deserves neither.

I am a nonsmoker who is against 901 because I believe in liberty and freedom. That's all.

GODFREE1 REPLIES: I am a nonsmoker who is for 901 because I believe in liberty and freedom—to breathe tobacco-smoke-free air in and around the businesses I patronize. "The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins." —Oliver Wendell Holmes

SHADY_B_206 REPLIES: People use this quote all the time without understanding its meaning. Listen here, you will learn something. Your right to breathe tobacco-smoke-free air ends when you enter private property. Why are you so stupid that you would give money to a business that allowed smoking? Once you nonsmoking Nazis realize this, more clubs and bars will open that will be only nonsmoking. Going to mommy and daddy is a bitch move! Why don't you guys open your own bars, is that too much to ask?

POSTED BY MAGGIE2 ON OCT 20: To the Editors and the election board: Here's the issue: a few articles on the success of smoking bans in other states doesn't erase the fact that your newspaper profits from Big Tobacco—and that profit nullifies the legitimacy of your position on 901. You cannot divorce the two—tobacco is in your interest, and anything that harms tobacco, such as a statewide ban, is harmful to your interests. Period.

And it's not just a few cigarette ads—Camel ashtrays, large neon signs, and posters are a ubiquitous presence at your Capitol Hill Block Parties. Tobacco is a well-known and controversial contributor to your Genius Awards (talk about hypocrisy!). Camel Casino, tobacco-sponsored music events, and full color Camel ad inserts are a few more examples of your dependence on tobacco. How do you defend taking that blood money? Answer that.

The 25-foot rule controversy is drummed up, bogus bullshit. It's a smokescreen for the real issue—that workers are forced to breathe cancer at their jobs. This business about selective enforcement is ludicrous—it has no basis in fact. It's all speculative and it's pure hype. All the pro-tobacco nut-jobs are using it and I am astounded and depressed that you've latched on to it as well.

It's time for you people to look in the mirror—you can't rationalize your ties to tobacco any longer and still sleep at night. You're as bad as the worst corporations out there—you are selling lies, deceit, and death. And that is not a reactionary, overblown, emotional rant—that is the sad truth.

DAN SAVAGE RESPONDS: When it comes to the tobacco companies, we've bitten that hand—one of the many that feeds us—so many times that I'm amazed they've still got hands for us to chomp into. I am, as has been pointed out, a rabid anti-smoker, most of the staffers at this paper are anti-smoking, and our editorial content, particularly my column, is pronounced in its hostility to smoking and smokers.

We could not, however, endorse I-901 due to the 25-foot rule and the certainty—past being prologue—that the SPD would, through selective enforcement, use the 25-foot rule to harass patrons at bars and clubs the SPD doesn't like, AKA hiphop clubs, gay clubs, clubs that are "loud," etc. In our editorial-board debate about what to do about 901 we stressed out for a moment that urging a "no" vote would lead people to accuse us of caving to business interests—but not, ironically, to the tobacco business. Look through the paper, kids. Most of our ads are from...? They're not from cigarette companies. We actually don't get that many ads from tobacco companies. Most of our ads are from bars and clubs and restaurants, and most bar owners, club owners, and restaurant owners are opposed to smoking bans.

But we didn't cave to bar and club owners any more than we caved to tobacco. We urged a "no" vote because the authors of 901 fucked up, period. The 25-foot rule was a mistake, and for us it was a deal-breaker. As we pointed out in the paper, an initiative is a blunt object—you have to swing it carefully. It is the responsibility of the authors of an initiative to get it right. They can't expect us to endorse, or voters to pass, laws that are well intentioned but badly written, dangerous, and vague.

As for Genius, which wasn't sponsored by a tobacco company this year (it was sponsored by ArtPatch, an anti-tobacco project sponsored by the health department), yes, we took tobacco money and gave it to artists. I viewed the tobacco company's money as a self-imposed sin tax. Anti-tobacco types generally support taxing cigarettes to pay for socially beneficial programs like health-care programs, anti-smoking campaigns, etc. Same deal with Genius, so far as I was concerned. The first two years of the Genius Awards were no dirtier for "taking" tobacco money than the health-care programs, youth programs, and water-quality programs that are funded by taxes on tobacco in Washington State are dirty for "taking" tobacco money.

As for the ads in the paper, well, that's not editorial's department. We don't decide who advertises and who doesn't. But I will say this: Like a ban on smoking in bars and clubs, a ban on cigarette advertising in newspapers and magazines will have to be imposed on everyone all at once. Just as few bar owners will put themselves at a competitive disadvantage by banning smoking while other bars allow it, few papers will refuse tobacco ads so long as their competition can accept them.

POSTED BY HOLMGANG ON OCT 21: Will this law affect hookah bars? (Like Zaina on Third Avenue, and that new one on Pine Street. Perhaps there are more that I don't know about?) Or is it cigarettes exclusively. Cigars? Are there any cigar bars in town?

POSTED BY THEHIM ON OCT 24: I have no problem with banning smoking in restaurants and all other places indoors where children are allowed, but unless this initiative allows for certain places to get licensed as "smoking establishments," it will end up putting places out of business where nonsmokers have no reason or desire to visit. Sure, new nonsmoking bars will probably take their place, but that doesn't make it right.

I've heard that even if this passes, it will be up to the local authorities whether or not to enforce it. Hopefully, this will keep it from being a true universal ban and instead give it the quasi-legal status that smoking pot in Seattle has.

POSTED BY GODFREE1 ON OCT 25: I don't frankly give a shit whether cigarette smokers smoke, as long as it isn't around me when they do. I'm painfully aware that cigarette smokers are going to continue to smoke cigarettes regardless of whether cigarette sales are still legal. I'm not here to "convert" the smoker, just so we're clear. He should have the willpower to do that on his own, and his filthy, stinky, unhealthy, expensive addiction should piss him off enough so that one day, he finally does something about it. Let me guess, though: Today won't be that day.

That said, this just in, to all of you breath-of-fresh-air-challenged Capitol Hill "hip"-sters and "scene"-sters out there; I'm delighted to break the great news: Tobacco smoking isn't cool anymore. That alone should be enough to stop you dead(!) in your empty-pack tracks.

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