In a front-page story that struck me as having relevance for climate regulations, the Washington Post reported today:
The Virginia House of Delegates approved a plan for a ban on smoking covering most of the state’s restaurants and many of its bars Monday, marking a significant political and cultural shift for a state whose history has been intertwined with tobacco for centuries.
It has been four decades since the U.S. Surgeon General’s first (semi-lame) warning appeared on cigarettes: “Cigarette Smoking May be Hazardous to Your Health.” Subsequent warnings became stronger and blunter — even as the industry pushed back with disinformation.
It has been about two decades since serious scientific warnings about global warming first were brought to national attention (see “Hansen on the 20th anniversary of his famous testimony“). Subsequent scientific warnings have become stronger and blunter (see “IPCC Report: Debate over, further delay fatal, action not costly“) — even as the industry pushed back with disinformation.
So perhaps we have another decade or two before we get the same strong cultural reaction and serious political action on carbon dioxide emissions.
That doesn’t mean I don’t think we will get a cap and trade bill next year — I do. But such a bill, especially if it is watered down with rip-offsets, will only be the beginning of a journey that ultimately ends in either much stronger domestic (and international) action or a 1,000-year catastrophe.
The relevance of Virigina’s action on smoking to climate change — other than the connections between the climate denial disinformation campaign and the pro-smoking disinformation campaign (see “Today We Have a Planet That’s Smoking!”) — is that ultimately coal states will need to see how self-destructive burning coal is:
Virginia has repeatedly resisted efforts to curtail smoking in public places, even as health concerns over secondhand smoke prompted 23 other states and the District to start enacting prohibitions.
The vote Monday makes it likely that a ban in some form will become law. The Republican-controlled House has been a choke point for years because of the strong influence of rural lawmakers who consider tobacco a critical ingredient in the state’s economy, and because of their resistance to imposing limits on personal freedom….
“It’s a big deal,” agreed House Minority Leader Ward L. Armstrong (D-Henry). “You got all these guys from tobacco country . . . voting for a smoking ban. Okay, so it’s not 100 percent. . . . Does that matter? It’s about 90 percent there”….
If approved, Virginia would be the first state in the South to ban smoking in both restaurants and bars.
Tobacco was once the foundation of Virginia’s economy. The state is still home to thousands of tobacco farms and Philip Morris, the world’s largest cigarette manufacturer.
Public sentiment in recent years has shifted rapidly in favor of the bans, in Virginia and across the nation. A 2006 Gallup poll found that even most smokers believed restrictions in public places were justified….
“Many Republicans think it’s too risky for them not to vote for it,” Rozell [a professor of public policy at George Mason University] said. “They don’t want to be seen as the dinosaurs of Virginia politics anymore.”
Of course we have a long, long way to go — at least one decade and probably two — before that last paragraph gets written about a vote on a serious climate legislation (see “Deniers are still mostly duping only GOP voters“).