June 30, 2007
UK apes Saudi Arabia, fears for your health
Maybe inspired by how there are no pubs in Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom decided to join this prestigious league and ban shisha, de facto sentencing shisha shops to closing business. The gullible souls could argue that while the UK government is motivated by public health concerns, the Saudis are trying to enforce some liberticidal moral code. The truth though is, alcohol does a lot more damage than shisha, and if the concern is really health, then alcohol should be banned in UK pubs and white baby milk should be served there instead. Don’t take my word for it; stand in an emergency department for a little while.
The opponents to this ban have approached it under the cultural angle so far. They miss the point. First, being perceived as a Muslim tradition, they shouldn’t expect much to be granted to the protection of this custom. Second, cultural or not, exceptions on public health issues aren’t made for cultural reasons. Try arguing for heroin on a cultural basis. Now, it should be demonstrated how the health concern is a fallacy, at least when other equally or more dangerous substances like alcohol are not banned.
There are two other lines of defense in favor of the shisha that weren’t used as much as the cultural one. The first one is one of principle. Freedom. Libertarian views aside, even though a prohibition on cigarettes might make sense in general, we’re talking about specific dedicated places here. People who go to a shisha shop know where they’re going, and freely choose to do so. Non-smokers have never been forced to sit there.
The other line should be economic. This ban threatens hundreds or thousands of jobs and businesses. Whereas smoking definitely has negative externalities which should be born by those related, whether consumers or producers, there is an industry out there that cannot be eliminated overnight. Good people and their families make a living out of those shisha shops. They aren’t any more criminal than pub owners and employees. They pay taxes, which help build schools and hospitals. So, self-righteous British MPs, why are you throwing them in the streets?
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Stupid, nanny-state law. Clearly there should be an exception not only for shisha, but for cigar bars and other places that are specifically smoking venues.
Posted by: Antiquated Tory at July 1, 2007 08:19 AM
Now I don't support smoking/shisha bans. Just to make that clear.
Ok. The reasoning is that bans are put in place because of the employees working there. Since you can't (officially) ask people to subject themselves to unavoidable health risks in jobs, the solution is to ban the smoke. Saying that people can look elsewhere for jobs would not always fly, because there aren't always other jobs. It would also set a bad precedent that you can subject your employees to health risks simply because 'it's part of the job'.
But, why is it that one cannot simply equip the employees with silly gas masks, like those who have to work in other harmful environments?
Alcohol cannot be banned because people like it too much. But were it invented today it would be instantly banned, I'm sure.
"It would also set a bad precedent that you can subject your employees to health risks simply because 'it's part of the job'."
So now all construction workers and window washers should not be required to go above the first floor because of the risks, and the fact that they can't get another (type of) job?
Posted by: matthew hogan at July 1, 2007 09:43 AM
No, because that is officially avoidable. They just shouldn't trip, and wear safety gear, and be careful. Stats tell that this isn't enough, but what the hey.
Consider the difference between car accidents and mad cow disease risk. First is serious, but somehow up to freedom of will or individual skill, while second is next to non-existent, but hits like lightning from the sky. The press gave much more attention to the latter. So it's irrational in that way. Though contracting lung cancer is of course a more likely than mad cow disease.
Posted by: Klaus at July 1, 2007 10:58 AM
Yes, Alcohol is more dangerous than smoking. But smoking has direct effects on others nearby in the form of second-hand smoking. I agree the Shisha ban is stupid as Shisha bars are especially designated for smoking
Posted by: salman at July 1, 2007 06:26 PM
It could easily be argued alcohol increases aggressiveness among males. Then throw in some statistics, it's a slam dunk.
Ah, Bush phrases. Slam dunk. Mission accomplished. Nucular. Last throes. I do not recall. Misunderstimated. Decider. It reinvigorates the English language.
"I do not recall" is old school, going back at least to the Iran-Contra hearings.
Posted by: Tom Scudder at July 3, 2007 02:50 PM