Do Preferences about Anti-Smoking Legislation Have a Political Affiliation?
July 22, 2006 4:34 PM   Subscribe

Do preferences about anti-smoking legislation have a political affiliation?

I'd like to know whether anti-smoking initiatives (and anti-anti-smoking resistance to such) have a natural political affiliation in whatever political terms people think are relevant. If there are such affiliations, are those affiliations intrinsic? Or by popular perception? Do these differ nationally or regionally?

Googling was not terribly helpful for a variety of reasons. I found one relatively unrigorous study specific to the US—I'd like something more concrete. But personal opinion and persuasive arguments are very welcome.
posted by Ethereal Bligh to Society & Culture (23 answers total)
I can only speak regarding my experience locally, but when the pub/restaurant/public spaces smoke-free legislation was phased in here in Ottawa, Canada, a few years back it was generally the conservatives in support and the liberals sort of quasi standing up for "smokers' rights" and downplaying the need for such legislation. But there were a variety of strong opinions on all sides. The people who were most vocally opposed--for obvious reasons--were smokers and owners of pubs/bars/restaurants, who were pissed regardless of their political affiliation. My perceptions came mostly from listening to talk radio where extreme opinions are the bread and butter.

It's an interesting question.
posted by persona non grata at 4:47 PM on July 22, 2006

I'm no expert, but it seems like anti-anti-smoking-legislation is an intrinsically libertarian position. Or else libertarianism is intrinsically anti-anti-smoking-legislation.
posted by box at 4:57 PM on July 22, 2006

In DC, a city-wide smoking ban in restaurants was (and I think maybe still is) held up in committee by a Republican city council member. She opposed passage on essentially libertarian grounds - saying that business owners had a right to let patrons smoke, and workers who found it offensive could find work elsewhere.

That anti-regulatory/libertarian attitude, combined with the fact that most tobacco is grown in Southern states which has mostly Republican representation, I think would make opposition to anti-smoking legislation mostly a Republican phenomenon. Of course, there are probably lots of exceptions in practice.
posted by thewittyname at 4:57 PM on July 22, 2006

I found some success googling for

survey "smoking ban" democrat


poll "smoking ban" democrat

A Wisconsin survey found that 52% of Dems and 45% of Repubs in WI supported a smoking ban. Or 60% of liberals and 39% of conservatives.

An Arizona poll found no difference.

An anti-smoking group cites a national poll showing that Republicans are more likely to favor bans in various places.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:04 PM on July 22, 2006

A start may be to check out how much campaign contributions are given from Big Tobacco to the parties. See where the companies are located. See what the distribution of representatives by party are in those states. I'm going to guess that states that have a lesser economic interest in tobacco are going to be pretty evenly split among party lines on anti-smoking legislation.
posted by pieoverdone at 5:11 PM on July 22, 2006

it seems like anti-anti-smoking-legislation is an intrinsically libertarian position

Yep. Smoking bans are generally considered an intrusion into private property rights.
posted by trevyn at 5:12 PM on July 22, 2006

history tells us only blue states have comprhensive smoking bans. however, recently a red state or two has gotten into the action.
posted by brandz at 5:13 PM on July 22, 2006

A document produced by the Tobacco lobby in Australia indicates that in 1978 the conservatives (Liberals) were more susceptible to lobbying then the liberals (Labor). However, the Howard government (conservative) has been in power for 10 years, and more anti-smoking legislation has been enacted. For example, Australian cigarette packets carry graphic images of the results of smoking, smoking can not occur within 5 metres of a door to a public building, cannot occur where food is served.

So it looks like a consensus here. Both major political parties believe smoking is bad.
posted by b33j at 5:21 PM on July 22, 2006

I think that anti-smoking bans in the US probably started out as a Democrat thing, but have become increasingly bipartisan over the years. Witness the spread of anti-smoking bans in America's cities; nothing is ever that successful if it is limited to one political party.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:31 PM on July 22, 2006

As we told you before, NO! Why continue your derail of that thread here?
posted by caddis at 5:38 PM on July 22, 2006

Response by poster: As we told you before, NO! Why continue your derail of that thread here?"

Because I was looking for answers from someone besides the three people who provides them in that thread? Because I was looking for someone to provide actual documentary proof of their answer? In other words, because I was looking for the answer to the question?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:47 PM on July 22, 2006

thewittyname -- the DC smoking ban has been approved, is already in effect for restaurants, and will be in effect for bars at the start of next year. Hookah bars are exempted, mostly because it's central to their business. A Republican did, however, cast the dissenting vote.

It seems to me that smoking bans and regulation are most vehemently opposed by libertarians, who oppose government interference in most aspects of life (and don't fit in to the traditional left-right political spectrum).
posted by kdar at 6:03 PM on July 22, 2006

Off-topic but sorta related.. in the 2004 elections, there was a ballot initiative in Alaska to legalize marijuana. Among conservatives, 25% voted Yes; among liberals, 26% voted No.
posted by daksya at 7:17 PM on July 22, 2006

If one data point is of any value, my political thinking basically springs from a sort of weak libertarianism (though I've become increasingly progressive as I've aged). Despite that, I think the anti-smoking laws are the bestest laws ever. It chafes me a bit because I recognize it as a kind of hypocrisy in myself, but I love those laws so much, it doesn't take much to put self-interest ahead of principles.
posted by willnot at 8:06 PM on July 22, 2006

anti-smoking laws are the bestest laws ever

my liberal data point is the anti-smoking laws are the worstest ever because they completely remove choice as an option.
posted by brandz at 8:26 PM on July 22, 2006

Smokers skew poorly-educated and working-class, the Republican base. Anti-smoking laws are seen as a government invasion of the rights of small-business owners, as well as an attack on the big business of the tobacco companies. So I'd think more traditional Republicans (and libertarians, of course) would tend to oppose these laws. But it's hard to estimate the degree to which the family-values blond-haired blue-eyed suburban fundamentalists currently so beloved of Karl Rove might offset this — due to them, the right wing is becoming more puritanical and less anti-government than it's been in the past.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 8:28 PM on July 22, 2006

So I'd think more traditional Republicans (and libertarians, of course) would tend to oppose these laws.

That doesn't seem to be the case, at least nationally.

62% of Republicans favor a ban on smoking in restaurants, while 53% of Democrats and 48% of independents do.

41% of Republicans favor banning smoking in hotels, while 33% of Democrats and 28% of independents do.

47% of Republicans favor banning smoking in the workplace, while 40% of Democrats and 37% of independents do.

Assuming the relevant page is reporting the Gallup results accurately, anyway.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:35 PM on July 22, 2006

Though a lot of those differences will be within 2 standard errors of each other, if not by much.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:36 PM on July 22, 2006

Now, on topic ... my experience in reading about anti-smoking regs is that the right-wing and libertarian reactions stem from the anti-business, anti-property rights aspect of smoking regs -- that is, people that cannot smoke in bars, restaurants and other locations are prevented from enjoying these places as they would like to enjoy them, and as they have become accustomed. Therefore, their buying habits change, with a negative impact on the bar and restaurant owners (any bar owner will tell you anecdotally that smokers drink and eat more than non-smokers).
posted by frogan at 9:59 PM on July 22, 2006

I'm sorry I can't provide you with hard data. But I can speak from experience here in Canada, and especially in a city and a province that recently debated and passed these bans. The provincial NDP in Saskatchewan, which is solidly leftist -- although not as far left as its federal counterpart -- and draws its support from the cities, introduced the bill. The opposition Saskatchewan Party, which is conservative and draws its votes from rural areas, allowed their members a free vote on the issue. The first lesson, I think, is that these bans are often introduced by leftists. You can see this general pattern borne out in other provinces in Canada, and it fits with your argument in the MeTa thread about tradition and social change.

Anyway, in this province, most of the opposition to the bans came from conservative and libertarian pro-business types. You might expect the conservatives in the legislature to cater to these people. Curiously enough, the Sask Party didn't do so. My sense is that they realized that, on this issue, because nearly 80% of the province doesn't smoke, they stood to lose support if they took a strong stand either way. That said, the situation is complicated by the existence of socialized medicine in Canada. As a general rule, conservatives don't like paying for health problems brought about by others' choices. In their minds, smokers "deserve" to pay the consequences of their choice; others don't.
posted by smorange at 10:31 PM on July 22, 2006

Response by poster: All lot of the comments above contradict one another. Per smorange's comment, I'm wondering if it might be helpful to look at public opinion and the political groups organized around the matter (those introducing the legislation, those opposing) seperately. Also per this thread and the MeTa one, the Libertarian opposition to anti-smoking legislation obviously complicates matters. I wonder if it wouldn't be helpful, then, to also seperate those who oppose it for primarily explicit libertarian reasons. That is, those who will explicitly identify their views behind this being libertarian, not necessarily that the political affiliation is libertarian. Thus, this class of opponents don't need to claim to be libertarians, but they do need to specifically cite libertarianism, and not just civil rights in general, as being involved in some way.

My thinking is to screen for those more influenced by more doctrinaire libertarian thought as opposed to those merely vague personal rights reasoning. I'm just looking to screen out those more likely to fall more conventionally on the left-right axis from those substantially influenced by libertarianism, which pulls them off that axis, at least for these purposes.

I certainly don't dispute ROU_Xenophobes quoted Gallup polling results, but they certainly defy my own expectations along with, for example, the assertions of a number of people here and the survery paper I mention in my post. (Which, to be sure, does not seem very rigorous at all). I wish ROU_X had linked to the Gallup result. I'll Google for them later...)

Thanks for the responses everyone. Keep 'em coming, and especially any more pointers or links to hard data or anything beyond personal opinion and gut instinct. Pretty much all of us in the MeTa thread were relying on simply what we think is common sense and our own anecdotal experience. Anything more rigorous than that is very welcome in this AskMe thread. (Though of course, although AskMe surveys are generally uncool, I'm quite interested in an AskMe survery on this question But let's keep something more substantial coming in so as to aboid running afoul of the moderators. :)
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:44 PM on July 22, 2006

gallup "consumption habits"

But it looks like you'd have to shell out to see the actual results, ergo the link to those people citing it. I didn't find a useful link to the data itself in brief googling. I may check Monday to see if I can get them from my office machine.

What survey did you link to? The link goes (on my machine) to a description of the American Council on Science and Health.

The numbers surprised me too.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:49 AM on July 23, 2006

This paper might help you out. I've only skimmed it, but it appears to consider the effect of Republican governors and legislatures on public opinion.
posted by smorange at 2:08 AM on July 23, 2006

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