It’s not the same as pee in the swimming pool


A repeat of a column from 2008. Mark McCormick no longer writes for the Wichita Eagle. Recently that newspaper concluded that because Wichita’s smoking ban caused no economic harm, it was a good thing to do. Let’s hope this regulatory zeal doesn’t spread to other areas.

In a column in the February 27, 2008 Wichita Eagle (“Smoking ban issue not one to negotiate”), columnist Mark McCormick quotes Charlie Claycomb, co-chair of Tobacco Free Wichita, equating a smoking section in a restaurant with “a urinating section in a swimming pool.”

This is a ridiculous comparison. A person can’t tell upon entering a swimming pool if someone has urinated in it. But people can easily tell upon entering a restaurant or bar if people are smoking.

Besides this, Mr. McCormick’s article seeks to explain how markets aren’t able to solve the smoking problem, and that there is no negotiating room, no middle ground. There must be a smoking ban, he concludes.

As way of argument, McCormick claims, I think, that restaurants prepare food in sanitary kitchens only because of government regulation, not because of markets. We see, however, that food is still being prepared in unsanitary kitchens, and food recalls, even in meat processing plants where government inspectors are present every day, still manage to happen. So government regulation itself is not a failsafe measure.

Despite the doubts of nanny-state regulators, markets — that is, consumers — exert powerful forces on businesses. If a restaurant serves food that makes people ill, which do you think the restaurant management fears most: a government fine, or the negative publicity? Restaurants live and die by their reputation. Those that serve poor quality food or food that makes people ill will suffer losses, not as much from government regulation as from the workings of markets.

But I will grant that McCormick does have a small point here. Just by looking at food, you probably can’t tell if it’s going to make you ill. Someone’s probably going to need to get sick before the word gets out.

But you easily can tell if someone’s smoking in the bar or restaurant you just entered.

The problem with a smoking ban written into law — rather than reliance on markets and individual choice — is that everyone has to live by the same rules. Living by the same rules is good when the purpose is to keep people and their property safe from harm, as is the case with laws against theft and murder. But it’s different when we pass laws intended to keep people safe from harms that they themselves can easily avoid, just by staying out of those places where people are smoking.

For the people who value being in the smoky place more than they dislike the negative effects of the smoke, they can make that decision. McCormick and Claycomb want to deny people that choice.

This is not a middle-ground position. It is a position that respects the individual. It lets each person have what they individually prefer, rather than having a majority — no matter how lop-sided — make the same decision for everyone. Especially when that decision, as Claycomb stated in another Wichita Eagle article, will “tick off everybody.” Who benefits from a law that does that?


9 responses to “It’s not the same as pee in the swimming pool”

  1. Sheila

    If I started to get into a swimming pool, and smelled urine, I would not go in. That’s my choice. If I walk into a business and smell tobacco smoke, I have the same option. Pro ban people, like the Claycombs, think that we are too stupid to make choices for ourselves. What part of “if you don’t like my business, stay out”, do they not understand. It’s like walking into a Bar B Q restuarant and whining that you want fried chicken. Business owners decide what they want to provide. If people don’t want to go there, the business will close.

  2. Owners can hang a sign in their doors:
    ‘This is a smoking venue.’
    ‘This is a non-smoking venue.’
    This solution gives owners and customers choices.
    Isn’t this what America is all about?

    People can vote with their feet

  3. Pam

    Excuse me but the peeing in the pool is getting old. How many times is the water in the pool exchanged for new water? Huh? When is a pool drained and new water put in. ONCE A SEASON. How often is air exchanged in a bar? Everytime someone opens a door, air gets exchanged. Ventilation systems exchange air. Open windows exchange air. I think those in tobacco control should try a new visual. This one “doesn’t hold water”.

  4. Bob

    Johnson and Johnson, makers of Chantix and Nicoderm fund the bans through their RWJ Foundation.

    The American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, and the American Heart Association get millions to sell smoking bans from RWJ Foundation. These bans are nothing but clever marketing strategy.

    And what the 99 million dollars was going to. Note on page seven the “inside -out”, provision going for patios later, AFTER business owners spend thousands of dollars to build them to accommodate their smoking customers, clearly showing that the tobacco control activists have ABSOLUTLY NO CONCERN about local issues or businesses. You may need to CTRL and scoll to enlarge it.

  5. The pee-in-pool sound bite has been used by Antismokers since the early 1980s. It appeals to their seeming fascination with excretion (heh… just a few hours ago I ran across another who wanted to “crap in a bowl” at smoker’s tables in restaurants) and it’s “naughty” enough that most people don’t stop to think about what it means.

    In reality, a pool changes its water about once a year. A decent Free Choice bar/restaurant today changes its air on the order of 50,000 times a year. Using the antimoking style of magnifying numbers by changing them into percentages, we’d have to say that the Antismokers are exaggerated by a factor of FIVE MILLION PERCENT with that particular “bite.”

    Not all that unusual for them, eh?

    Michael J. McFadden
    Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

  6. […] A while back he tried to compare a smoking section in a restaurant with a urinating section in a swimming pool. This is ridiculous to the extreme, as I show in the post It’s not the same as pee in the swimming pool. […]

  7. Just wanted to add a note: Try Googling variations of peeing, pissing, pool, smoking section, etc and you’ll be amazed at how many thousands of times this little sound bite has been used.

    – MJM

  8. Kevin

    If we spent as much money on propaganda, telling everyone the children pee in the pool thousands of times a year [and it is impossible to swim in pee free environment], As they spent on smoking bans and reefer madness, how many pools would be open for business?

    Restrictions have an effect that is always seen in the strangeness of cultures with diminished freedoms and choices. If you go to a coffee shop you see warnings on the front door giving people with pacemakers and nut allergies choices. On the cup you have a warning that the contents may be hot as a result of insanity gone to far in the opposite direction. If your entering a highway offramp the wrong way you are warned by a do not enter sign.

    If you are delicate enough to be harmed by a wisp of tobacco smoke inside or outside you make those kind of choices already and tobacco smoke is the least of your worries. This anti- SMOKER campaign, has nothing to do with Public Health and everything to do with dictatorship and Fascist attitudes, allowed to run wild in the very places people should oppose them the most. Shame on anyone who allows these fanatics a place in the sun, they are no different than the fanatics who direct planes into buildings or kill with roadside bombs. They survive by promoting your fears and wallow in the excesses of stolen tax dollars, paid to keep that fear alive at all costs.

    Profiting by irresponsible fear mongering, be it political ground or financial by drug sales, should be dealt with as it deserves; as the real crime and the real hazard in our midst. Just as free people can vote with their feet at the bars and the malls, they can also vote at the ballot box and in the stores, when considering purchasing the products of propagandists. All that remains is for the media to do their job and raise the veil.

  9. Sheila

    AMEN, Brother Kevin!!!!! Senator Barnett is banking on the statewide smoking ban for his future. Moran voted for SCHIP, although he doesn’t like ANYONE to bring it up! House member Slattery, son of Jim, political lifer, won’t listen to any reasonable contradictory evidense, as he wants to be a lifetime politico. like his dad. And all this to sell nicotine replacement products for Johnson and Johnson. Honestly, they really don’t need government mandates to sell their products, they could do it the old fashioned way. HONESTLY. Advertise it. If it works, people will buy it. What’s a half a billion for buying a government, when your company sells 65 billion a year?

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