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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Olson Blocks Smoking Ban to Save Big Macs

On Monday, District 8 Representatives Gerry Lange (D-Madison) and Mitch Fargen (D-Flandreau) both voted for HB 1240, which would prohibit smoking in public places. Their District 8 colleague, Senator Russell Olson (R-Madison), will now get a chance to reverse his nay on the senate version of the smoking ban earlier this month.

Olson channels PP (and PP's commenters) to offer this justification for his stand against "'Big Brother/Government' dictating social policy through law":

I understand the implications and medical rationale against smoking. I have heard the second hand smoke arguments and I understand that people feel strongly about this issue. I also feel strongly and will not vote against the rights of individual business owners and tell them how to run their businesses. What is next? Will we have a scale and a tape measurer at McDonalds that tells people they are too short, too fat and their cholesterol is too high to have a Big Mac? It is the same baseline argument. High Cholesterol has an adverse impact on a person’s well being and if they are hospitalized and can’t afford their medical bills, we the tax payers are saddled with their debt. Think about it, where does it stop? [State Senator Russell Olson, legislative update, 2009.02.22]

Boy, and people say I get a little hyperbolic in my arguments.

I love Big Macs. I recognize that Big Macs and cigarettes both have health impacts that arguably increase health care costs for society. However, Senator Olson's worthy effort at analogy and slippery slope misses the point. Cigarettes have an immediate external impact beyond their users that Big Macs do not: second-hand smoke. If you and I go to McDonalds and sit at adjoining tables, you can enjoy your salad and McChicken while I snarf my Mac, no impact. If I come over to your table and try to shove some chewed-up burger in your mouth, you can probably have Officer Big Mac arrest me for assault.

Yet for the sake of a little extra profit for his restaurant buddies (oh wait, no one smokes at the Madison Dairy Queen, and they've been making money for decades), Senator Olson will continue to permit smokers to fill my lungs with their noxious offal in public places.

Reps. Lange and Fargen recognize the obvious difference between a burger (even a big greasy one) and a cigarette. The Feb. 3 Senate vote on the smoking ban was close; flip just one vote—Russ—and it passes.

Senator Olson's number again:
Home Address
6098 Dakota Avenue
Madison, SD 57042
Capitol Address
920 W. Sioux Avenue
Phone Numbers
Home 605-256-3899
Capitol 605-773-3858
Business 605-256-6536
Other Contact Information
Email Contact Senator Russell Olson
Fax 605-256-2990


  1. At least when I die from too many Big Macs I will know that the secret sauce unlike second hand smoke did not kill anyone or at least make them uncomfortable. Comparing McDonald's Bic Mac to second hand smoke...... whats next comparing drinking and driving with marathon running. Hard on the joints you know. Drug use with sky diving....etc etc etc.

  2. What an unthinking statement.

  3. I still stand for gov't not interfering in how one runs his/her own business and agree with Olson, much as I dislike smoky environments. But I can choose not to enter those places, and I do.

  4. But in this economy, you can't always choose where you work, Anon 12:24. This is a workers rights issue. Name another job where part of the job requirement is to breath poisoned air? Coal miners have it better than waitresses.

  5. I don't agree that people have no option but to work in a smoky bar. That is about the only place left that people are allowed to smoke in, and they can't be employing that many people with no other options. I just don't buy this argument.

  6. Why don't bars spend some money upfront to create a smoker's area that is truly sealed off and has smoke eaters in the ceiling. Some bars do this with their video lottery casino area. Install a couple of leather sofas and TV's and at least smokers don't have to stand in the cold to smoke, plus they won't kill off the rest of us to enjoy their addictions. Russell may be getting pressure from his local bar/casino friends who allow smoking.


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