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Bill Kalmar

Quality Insider

Smoke ’Em if You Got ’Em

But not around me!

Published: Monday, April 26, 2010 - 10:54

Quality has many identities. There is quality in the manufacturing of automobiles, quality in food preparation, quality in education, quality in surgical procedures, quality in document preparation, and of course air quality, which is the underlying theme of my ranting this week.

On Saturday, May 1, Michigan began enacting its own “no smoking” policy throughout the entire state. The only exceptions are casinos. So if you want to gamble with your money and perhaps with your health, you can travel to the smoke-laden casinos and hope some have plans for a smoke-free floor. Yes, I realize this is a topic that engenders strong lines of demarcation, but I’m confident the ban on smoking has more widespread acceptance than disapproval. As such, I thought it was appropriate to exhale my own smoke in this debate.

Recently, Oakland county executive, Brooks Patterson, stated that he would not enforce the ban in his county because it was an “unfunded directive.” After more than a hundred phone calls and e-mails, all in favor of the ban, he rescinded that statement and now is working to police the new directive. Other counties in Michigan clearly indicated their readiness for the smoking ban.

Here’s what I have difficulty understanding, though. As a nation concerned with impure drinking water, lead-based paint on toys, tainted seafood, and other defective products from China, we seem unable to decide what should be done with tobacco smoke, which is proven to be dangerous to our health. In Michigan, it took years before the ban was passed. Numerous states have already instituted smoking bans and, from what I have read, there has not been an appreciable reduction in the restaurant business.

Whether we are smokers or recipients of second-hand smoke, this is an issue that will continue to swirl like puffs from a cigarette.

Warnings on tobacco products plainly claim that smoking is a habit that might just kill you. In Canada, one of the warnings on a pack of smokes warns that “tobacco use can make you impotent,” but millions of people ignore the admonition and continue to light up.

Frankly, that’s their right, and I have no problem with that.

What disturbs me is when I have to be subjected to clouds of smoke in a restaurant while I try to enjoy some epicurean delight. I realize that most restaurants have a “no smoking” section, but smoke rarely adheres to assigned boundaries. It’s tantamount to having a “pee zone” in a swimming pool.

Florida has the most comprehensive smoking ban, which includes all restaurants, country clubs, bowling alleys, and even prisons.

In downtown Chicago, with hundreds of dining establishments, most are smoke-free. Having visited the Windy City recently, the restriction didn’t seem to create an appreciable lapse in customers. The restaurants were jammed.

Several hotel chains, including Marriott (which includes The Ritz-Carlton) adopted a total nonsmoking policy years ago. Violators are subject to a $250 fine if they should light up in their room. Now that’s an expensive smoke.

In addition, the Walt Disney Co. has banished cigarette smoking in Disney-branded films. Furthermore, it plans to place anti-smoking public service messages on DVDs of its films that contain smoking.

Also, NBC Universal Studios has committed to reducing the incidence of smoking in films rated for PG-13 or younger audiences. It’s a clear sign that smoking in movies is on the decline.

So I continue to wonder what took our Michigan legislature so long to enact a policy that is starting to sweep the nation. Unfortunately, like most issues coming before this dysfunctional group of blowhards, the only important issue seems to be their reelection.

Old war movies always had an instruction from the platoon sergeant who would utter those famous words to the troops, “Smoke ’em if you got ’em.” That troop directive may still be true today and in my way of thinking, if you have $7 for a pack of cigarettes and you are aware of the dangers inherent in smoking, go for it. It’s your right.

Smoke ’em if you got ’em. But please not around me.

Now, before I upset any more smokers in the audience, it’s time for me to butt out.


About The Author

Bill Kalmar’s picture

Bill Kalmar

William J. Kalmar has extensive business experience, including service with a Fortune 500 bank and the Michigan Quality Council, of which he served as director from 1993 through 2003. He served on the Board of Overseers of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and has been a Baldrige examiner. He was also named quality professional of the year by the ASQ Detroit chapter. Now semiretired, Kalmar does freelance writing for several publications. He is a member of the USA Today Vacation Panel, a mystery shopper for several companies, and a frequent presenter and lecturer.


Money Influences the Decision

Until our local, state, and federal governments decline to take in tax revenues on the sale of tobacco products (and any of the other so-called "sin tax" commodities), they will be slaves to a revenue stream of taxation on products that they give lip service to condemning. If the product is that bad for the health, stop making money off if it. If it has an outright cost to society, or a hidden cost to society, let that commodity pay it's own way. How about no health insurance coverage for the results of smoking? Would people become more serious about quitting if they knew their cancer treatment bills were 100% out of pocket?

Money and decisions

Mark - hard to argue with your take on healthcare. I wrote a column about it some time ago and was roundly castigated by those who think us healthy people should pay for the transgressions of those who disregard a healthy lifestyle. I'm not going down that again!
Thanks for writing. All is well here in Lake Orion - we are starting to emerge from a painful winter of snow and ice and some of the blossoms are actually making an appearance!

Nanny State(s)

Bill, I understand someone not wanting to smell smoke who is not a smoker. I am a former smoker, and don't like the smell so much anymore, now that I can smell...My gripe is with the prevailing winds which seem to say that the government MUST have a say in everything, and that this is OK with lots of people. Name something the state is not anxious to control, from smoking, to trans fats, to pate', to salt, to seat belts, to texting-while-driving, on and on. Once the folks running our lives have cleared up all these things, I am going to suggest that hammock you look so comfy in be outlawed. You don't get enough exercise and you might fall out of it! Just looking out for you, you know!
Chuck G

Nanny State

Chuck - always great to hear from you! I'm with you on several of your government interventions but I do think that we need to put the clamps on texting while driving. I don't want government involved in my life nor do I want these same blowhards attempting to run the automotive industry or the financial sector. And yes, it is time for me to be back in my hammock - that's what us retirees do! Hope all is well with you.
Lake Orion MI

A different view - but not necessarily about smoking

One could also look at it as a cause for celebration and give the Legislature their due for passing a smoking in public places ban. It was a controversial issue with strong opinions on either side, they had failed to pass it previously, and now they did it. I am confident there are many in Michigan who are glad this is happening and thank the Legislature for it. Functionally, this article is a cheap shot at politicians disguised as a complaint about smoking. Must have been a slow news day.

State-Wide Smoking Bans

I used to live in Maine, where smoking is banned in most public places. What a "breath of fresh air"!! However, I now live in Wisconsin, which is farther behind the times than Michigan. I agree with you: As Americans, we have the right to smoke or not smoke as we choose; however, another's right to smoke ends at my nose!