Charles, let’s take this a step further just to see where it leads us, OK? Now I’ll agree that tobacco smoke happens to be a particularly visible and olfactorily noticeable “invasion” of others’ airspaces. Just as colognes, the pet dander coming off pet owners’ clothing, and flowers, it will sometimes trigger asthmatic or allergic attacks (though biologically the “allergenic” properties of tobacco smoke are far less accepted than for those other substances) Many folks would even argue that it’s been shown to be harmful in terms of long term diseases (although if you check my pages on ETS at Philadelphia you’ll see that this can be quite reasonably disputed.)
However there is another substance out there, commonly used by a certain class of people in many public restaurants where families gather with their children for the purpose of eating that is also potentially harmful although not nearly as noticeable. If you check the WHO/IARC classifications of human carcinogens you will find that their two most recent reports list ethyl alcohol as a Class A Carcinogen. Ethyl Alcohol is a very volatile liquid: take a rocks glass, pour in a shot (43 grams) of grain alcohol (if you don’t have that, try rubbing alcohol… the volatility is similar) and set it out someplace safe for a day or two. I believe you’ll find that it’s gone in about 43 hours give or take a few.
Where did it go? Into the air of course, and also into the lungs of anyone who happened to be breathing in the area at the time. Did you notice it? Did it harm you? Of course not: it’s far too small an amount of exposure to matter. Only a crazy person or someone who believed extremist lies about it would worry.
However, now go to the Surgeon Generals Reports and check on the carcinogens emitted by a cigarette. You’ll find that there are 6 Class A carcinogens listed. Each cigarette puts out a total of roughly 500 micrograms, or about 1/2 of a milligram of Class A Carcinogens (total: sidestream AND mainstream.)
In order to equal the carcinogenic output of a shot of alcohol you would have to burn 2,000 cigarettes (1/2 milligram each x 2,000 = 1 gram Class A Carcinogen.)
If I’m having a drink in a restaurant where you and your family are eating I am exposing you and your children to FAR more carcinogenic danger than if I sat there with with 100 friends and we all chain-smoked around you. These figures are accurate: check them yourself. The only difference is that you don’t SEE the alcohol fumes, you generally don’t smell them, and there has not been a multi-billion dollar campaign to frighten you about them and persecute drinkers.
Should we then ban alcohol in workplaces? Even if we give bars a temporary exemption to convert to health juices, we’d still have the problem of losing most of our better restaurants which depend on the “drink dollar” to keep going. We’d become even more a nation of McDonalds and Burger Kings than we are now.
When I drink around you I am forcing you to ingest my carcinogenic alcohol. Scientifically there is absolutely no disputing that fact. I am trespassing in much the same way that a smoker does despite the fact that it’s far less noticeable.