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Friday, June 23, 2006

Smoked Out

Posted by on June 23 at 13:41 PM

As much as I hate to reignite the Great Smoking Ban War on our website, I did promise the guy who picketed the talk I took part in at Town Hall last week with Randi Rhodes and Ron Reagan that I would post pictures of his sign on our website…


Here’s a better look at his sign…


The title of the talk was “What Makes a Progressive?”, and the picketer—whose name I didn’t get—had one answer to the question: A progressive paper doesn’t run tobacco ads in its pages. The picketer, upset about toboacco ads in the paper, handed out flyers that read… “Contact The Stranger and Tell Them You Are Fed Up With This Harmful Influence on Our Community.” I’m sorry to report that we didn’t get a single call from any of the 1000+ folks who attended the event.


You gotta love our non-endorsement of the smoking ban. We made it clear that we weren’t endorsing 901 because of the idiotic, unenforceable, and wide-open-to-abuse 25 foot rule. We were for smoking bans in bars and clubs, but we worried about selective enforcement by the SPD.

The Stranger Election Control Board is no fan of secondhand smoke, and we would have loved to endorse a statewide smoking ban. Our problem with I-901 is that it doesn’t stop at banning smoking inside of bars, restaurants, and other public venues. It also bans smoking outside bars and restaurants, prohibiting citizens from lighting up within 25 feet of any door, window, or vent that leads into a public establishment.

In a dense urban area such as Seattle, this creates a practical problem for certain blocks that are popular precisely because they are filled with doors, windows, and vents into public establishments (where would one smoke on such a block, except in the middle of the street?). But more disturbingly, the law’s vague language on its own enforcement creates an irresistible opportunity for selective enforcement, a tactic long used by authorities in Seattle to target “certain” clubs and businesses.

Couldn’t be clearer—for smoking bans, against this one.

Since our non-endorsement of the public indoor smoking ban aggressively endorsed the concept of indoor public smoking bans, angry smokers viewed our non-endorsement as an endorsement. For months after the smoking ban passed (it passed by an overwhelming margin even without our endorsement), angry smokers posted hundreds of comments on our website, blasting us for weeks on end about our support of the smoking ban, which we, uh, didn’t actually endorse.

So where are we now? Since our non-endorsement of the smoking ban endorsed the concept of public indoor smoking bans, smokers were, and remain, furious with us. But because it was a non-endorsement, now anti-tobacco activists are pointing to our non-endorsement as case-closed evidence that The Stranger is in bed with tobacco companies. So by telling people to Vote No I-901, we somehow managed to eternally piss off tobacco smokers and tobacco haters alike. Neat trick.

As for the issue of taking ads from tobacco companies, that’s a business decision, not an editorial decision. An ad in The Stranger does not constitute an endorsement from The Stranger. Provided there aren’t any legal issues—no copyright violations, no libel, and believe it or not, nothing indecent (ahem)—we generally avoid censoring ads.

CommentsRSS icon

Funny, did you hear Randi Rhodes' show the Monday after? She said she really enjoyed meeting you, and said you tossed out more "f bombs" than she could ever imagine, which she found impressive.

But she also went ON and ON and ON about the smoking ban, talking about how at a time when people's rights are being stripped left and right, the smart people of Seattle would vote against their own freedoms.

Not trying to reignite the argument and I know yours: I have a right to be comfortable where I choose to sit, but I did think it was a funny TADOW and I wished she could talk with you about it on the air. Of course, that would probably be unappealing to other listeners around the country...

i don't take issue with putting smoking ads into your paper. i do, however, take issue with the idea that there should be a disconnect between editorial and business decisions. while some would argue that a business should only worry about profit, i would think that a "progressive" paper would believe in a morality behind business. would you run an ad for a neo-nazi group, or a christian fundamentalist group? i would hope that you would find that immoral.

Besides the smoking ban, Randi did mention this protester and his quibble on her show. She basically said that this guy didn't get it.

BTW--Randi will be back in town for Hempfest! Maybe another Randi and Dan meeting will be possible! :0)

I find there's an easy way to deal with smokers - toss them an open cup of gasoline.

The smoking ban is the best thing that ever happened to this city because there are now loads of people standing outside on Friday and Saturday nights adding a high dose of octane to Seattle's night life street life.

The guy with the sign obviously never heard of Jesse "Big Daddy" Unruh, the late, great Democratic Speaker of the California Assembly, who said of corporate lobbyists:

"If you can't take their money, eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women, look them in the eye and vote against them, you don't belong here."

You were for the smoking ban before you were against it. That's not a neat trick -- plenty of moderate Democrats have turned the practice of managing to piss off everybody by being on both sides of an issue that they've turned it into a science. Nothing tricky about it; just follow the DNC textbook and any fool can make enemies on all sides.

Is it ironic that The Stranger never tires of calling out politicians, activists, and any kind of advocacy group based on who signs their checks, including endlessly slamming The Weekly because their parent company's majority shareholder gives a lot of money to the GOP -- yet you so easily dismiss any questions about who signs The Stranger's checks.

For all the debate and disgust for the 25 foot rule, prior to the vote, is it really so surprising that everyone is ignoring it, therefor making it a moot point all along???

Konstantconsumer: Serious?

A good paper has strong editorial opinions. It also has to have ads.

If a neo-nazi organization wanted to pay thousands to put an ad in my paper (not that I have one, I just process metrics), I'd be like "Hellz yeah!". Give me a ton of dough, and then I'll talk about what a shitface you are next week.

That said, I am against the smoking ban. But if nazis from Idaho try to put an ad in the Stranger, that would be a fun, sexy time.

"We don't censor" is an utter cop-out. The guy's got a point. If the eradication of smoking is a progressive cause, shouldn't the Stranger support it? Hell, even the Bush-controlled FCC doesn't permit tobacco advertising on television.

Is the eradication of smoking a progressive cause?

We're for the legalization of pot, coke, shrooms, and other recreational drugs. We can't be for the illegalization of cigarettes, however idiotic smoking is. People should be free to smoke, if they care to. They shouldn't be free to make others smoke along with them.

I love the smoking ban, and I'm a twenty-eight-year smoker. I manage a bar, and clean-up is so much easier at the end of the night, my clothes don't stink, and I've cut down on my personal cigarette consumption by about 1/3. Sure, the first few days of not smoking inside were a bit strange, but we're adaptable. Also, as Josh points out, smokers outside the bars add a liveliness to the street scene that wasn't there before. That alone makes it worth it to me.

Dan: Since people should be free to smoke if they care to, shouldn't they also be free to work for less than the minimum wage if they care to? How about if they do it for a fetish? ("I want to mow your enoromous yard for just $1; it turns me on to feel like a wage slave.")

I never understood how progressives can make libertarian noises on some issues but turn into rabid stalinists on others. (Conservatives do it too, of course.) Is there some principal I just don't grasp that progressives use to decide when liberatrian principals apply? Or is libertarian rhetoric just an occasionally convenient tool?

Unfortunately, all the new liveliness in the streets has given the city yet another reason to crack down on neighborhood watering holes where the patrons are socializing outdoors while they smoke i.e. Redwood, Cafe Lagano, El Chupacabra. The end result may be fewer venues to enjoy nightlife outside the city core if proposed rules and limitations are put into place.

To quote a famous American:

"Mind if I smoke?"

"Not at all. Mind if I FART?"

MARK MITCHELL: Having to smoke outside of your bar is a nightmare. I agree that my clothes smell better, but at what cost? It's not the fault of your joint at all, but outside I can count on having to engage in conversations with angry, intoxicated homeless people, and I haven't been back to BS since my titties were violently grabbed five feet from your entrance. I'm not a baby, either, I've been in the corridor for years.

Red Herring,

There's another one, but I can't remember who said it. I believe it is:

"Do you mind if I smoke?"
"No, do you mind if I shit in your shoe?"

It really makes no sense, but I think that's why I like so much.

David Wright:

Yes. Yes, people who want to work for less than minimum wage should be allowed to work for less than minimum wage as part of their sexual gratification.

I'm the protester.

I have two goals: to educate the public about The Stranger's hypocritical dealings with big tobacco, and to hopefully put some pressure on them to end their relationship.

Dan Savage both defends The Stranger's practice of cigarette advertising and defends its anti-901 stance. He obfuscates the issue by insinuating that I'm calling for prohibition and censorship.

He's wrong, he's dishonest, and, he's corrupt.

901 has provided a healthy environment for workers - the 25-foot rule has proven to be a non-issue. His claim that it would be used to harass gays has been disproven.

Big tobacco is the number one lobby force in congress. It puts over 100 billion dollars in advertising per year - advertising that is proven to work. Big tobacco is the very definition of corruption, and its destructive practices must be a concern to any individual that calls himself a progressive.

The Stranger has a young readership - 1/3 of young smokers start because of advertising. It is simply wrong to target the youth of this community with Camel and American Spirit ads. It is particularly heinous that The Stranger, the number one newspaper of its kind in the city, considers itself progressive.

I will continue to speak out and protest Stranger events.


There's no hypocrisy here. The Stranger is a business. It is in business to make a profit. You are not the sole arbiter of what the Stranger's "message" is, or what a "progressive" is.

Tobacco has a right to exist and a right to advertise, and there's nothing hypocritical about the Stranger taking its money.

Tobacco isn't going away any more than alcohol, marijuana, abortions, or handguns are going away. Nobody likes a nanny-stater.

I voted for the smoking ban because I loathe tobacco in all forms. I support strict enforcement of the ban. I have never smoked tobacco and I never will. But Dan is right and your position is simply ridiculous.

Having moved here at the beginning of the century expecting a hip, progressive, laid back town, I was and continue to be SHOCKED by the overwhelmingly parental, uptight, prohibitive, and whiny culture that is Seattle. Our beloved "protestor" was a time-waster at the event, but not before he embarrassingly highlighted a culture of people who are theoretically liberal but practically uptight, fragile souls with a stunning inability to pick their battles.

After reading the comments, I am now expected to equate cigarette ads with nazis and islamic extremists. You prove my point - thx!

Oh - and Jeff - get laid for christ's sakes. Loosen your asshole. Take some ludes, crank up the Def Leppard. Buy some Marlboro Reds and figure out what's so great about tobacco - and quit making this fair city look like a gaggle of pathetic ninnies. Your mom warned you, and you didn't listen then. Listen now.

I guess what Dan Savage is is really suggesting is that The Stranger is psuedo-progressive. Obviously, it promotes smoking to the very group of people that keep big tobacco in business: kids and young twenty-somethings. Potential new smokers. It should also never be forgotten that The Stranger had the most influential campaign in WA state against Initiative 901. This publication was the first to cloud the issue with nonsense about the very progressive 25-foot rule. If that is not a standard Big Tobacco tactic, I don't know what is. Luckily, the voting public was progressive enough to see through it and vote overwhelmingly for the smoking ban, freeing over 200,000 restaurant workers from having to inhale arsenic, cyanide and a few thousand other poisons with every breath as a condition on their jobs. The Stranger would have had more luck with it's pro-smoking campaign somewhere in the south, like Tennasee. But soon, even the most backward areas in the U.S. will leave The Stranger in the dust. Tobacco Companies are the largest, most corrupt, corporations in the world. They have been brainwashing people for decades, getting rich from a product that tortures and kills millions of people and devastates families. There are many innocent and less educated young people who read The Stranger and will take up the deadly addiction. RJReynolds is sure getting it's money's worth with The Stranger.

Jill -- I'm sorry to hear about your horrible Pine Street experience. Truly. But overall, we've found that people smoking outside the bars on that block have actually dissuaded a lot of the creepy types from hanging out there. The crack deals have certainly gone underground, and most of the scariest chracters have moved on. Not that the problem is gone by a long shot, but it is better overall than it was before the ban.

Obviously, Mr. Savage does not know, or chooses to ignore, the massive damage tobacco advertising has wreaked over the last 50 years. Tobacco dollars squelched reporting on the health effects of cigarettes for decades.

Many forget that the deluge of tobacco news of the last 5 years is new. It should and would have happened 40-50 years ago were it not for ad dollars. Even the biggest nationals--Time, US News & World Report, Newsweek and others--suffered huge losses in withdrawn ad revenues when they dared to run a non-business item on tobacco. While hundreds of thousands died beneath the media's notice and lacking serious information about the health effects of cigarettes, tobacco-advertising-supported magazines and newspapers convinced us our worries should be rather about radium in watches, pit bulls and sharks.

RJR well knows its market--would-be progressives who, rather than quitting, are primed into thinking they are reducing their health risks by smoking something "natural." Ad space in media like The Stranger enforces that belief by association. Shame on The Stranger for helping to mislead its own readers into addiction and death.

Progressives can no longer afford to be as blissfully naive as Mr. Savage if they want any credibility at all.

PS: BRAVO to Jeff!

And to the posters of many of these insightful comments.

Specifics on how ad dollars influenced magazines is here:

tobacco doesn't smoke; people smoke. i don't need your hovering, parental ass in my liberal, progressive face.

"progressives can no longer afford to be as blissfully naive..."

are progressives no longer into personal adult choice? i thought that was an underpinning. if they're not for that, fuck 'em.

Horace: Thanks for the link! I'm afraid it's been deleted now, which is really too bad, because my yard needs a lot of work.

"pseudo-progressive" is a very good description of Mr. Savage.

Dan Savage, from The Stranger, is still calling the 25 Ft Rule "idiotic, unenforceable, and wide-open-to-abuse" when life seems to be moving along smoothly with the 25 Ft rule and other cities continue to adopt distance provisions in their smoke-free laws. Yawn. You've really added nothing to the discussion and sound dated.

It's overall working just fine and it's overall working where it needs to and most important "it's on the books" now and doesn't need to be added later. It was indeed very progressive and foresighted to include the 25 Ft rule at the get-go of the law.

Now that I-901 is a reality, the plusses of the 25 Ft Rule still outweigh any perceived minuses. My guess is that most people in the state are more conscientious about where they smoke and that is in small part due to the hoopla that surrounded (past-tense) the 25 Ft rule. That's part of the success of it. I wonder if The Stranger will ever wake up and see the reality right in front of them?

Anyone who can type that "life seems to be moving along smoothly with the 25 Ft rule" clearly has not been outside of many of the bars in this City.

Every day I either see blatant violation of the 25 ft rule or I see the ridiculous consequences like asking people to smoke around corners in alleys or in empty corners of parking lots.

I'm fine with the smoking ban for all the same reasons already mentioned. I don't mind going outside; I'm glad it's not smoky inside. Otherwise, not illegal, so piss off, etc.

With the 'weak kid' (er, smoking minority) pushed outside, is this the only good, easy feeling to be had by us tough-minded Seattleites? My question is what other bigger, more menacing and poisonous pollution issues will be confronted now? How tough are you, really?

To Mickymse:

It's up to smokers to manage their own habit and figure out where to smoke where they feel safest. If they choose to be in "alleys or empty corners in parking lots" then maybe they should find a different place to smoke and make their safety a priority and smoking second. They'll have to make a prudent judgment both in following the law and ensuring their own safety. After they've done that, they can smoke away.

The rule is "25 Feet". If people know that and aren't obeying it, it says more about them and their desire to comply than it does about the rule itself. They put themselves at risk. They can follow that law as they do others. If they don't, then the 25 Ft rule is the lesser of their problems.

As I said earlier I think many more people are concscientious about where they smoke in part due to it, and that's a positive step.

It looks like you really had a nice time. nokia6630

"Provided ... nothing indecent (ahem)— we generally avoid censoring ads." Does that mean that the paper has made a conscious decision that encouraging children to smoke and become addicted to nicotine isn't indecent? Either we are progressive and principled or not, part of the problem or seeking solutions.

The nicotine addiction industry spends heavily to normalize smoking within the community and it works. Approximately 90% of all new smokers are children or teenagers as mature minds are far too savvy to bite. It's Washington's biggest killer and The Stranger has consciously decided to be part of the youth addiction team.

Yes, it's a legal product but 9 times more addictive than alcohol and 9-10 times as deadly. Yes, it's legal but so are condoms, dynamite and cheap throw-away Saturday night specials.

Is it really that hard to take a stand in favor of youth? If The Stranger isn't going to fight to protect them from spending the balance of life fighting to break nicotine's amazing grip upon their mind then who will?

John R. Polito

bridal shoe

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