The Times has a piece today about a Canadian grad student (damn you, McLaren!) who came to New York to covertly measure particulate matter at the Big Smoke, a cigar-smokers’ event hosted by Cigar Aficionado magazine.
Now, I don’t have a problem with that. He should do whatever the hell he wants to, and it’s probably good, in the scheme of things, to know with some precision what you’re inhaling if you decide to smoke. Informed consent and all that.
The Marriott Marquis, which hosted the event, can do so legally because state law allows tobacco companies to promote their products at such events.
Kathleen Duffy, a spokeswoman for Marriott Hotels, said the company was honoring a longstanding contract with the publisher of Cigar Aficionado, Marvin R. Shanken, and had been the host of the Big Smoke at the Marriott Marquis for at least 10 years….
She said â€œwe tripled our effortsâ€ to keep the smoke contained, banning smoking outside the ballroom and increasing the filtration in the room, so that the smoke was funneled outside the hotel through air vents.
Did these measures work?
Under Environmental Protection Agency guidelines, air with fewer than 15 micrograms per cubic meter is considered good quality; air with more than 251 micrograms per cubic meter is hazardous.
Mr. Kennedyâ€™s preliminary findings showed that the average level of particulate matter in the hotel the day before the event was 8 micrograms per cubic meter, 40 micrograms where he was waiting to get in line for the event and 1,193 micrograms inside the ballroom.
Seems to me that if you didn’t want to be in the ballroom, breathing in the smoke, you were in pretty good shape, then, yeah? Only 40 micrograms outside the ballroom implies that you’re not in much danger of breathing second-hand smoke.
That should settle it then, right? The Marriott has a legal right to host this event, smokers have a legal right to attend, and nonsmoking guests aren’t in any danger.
â€œThe event is really a flagrant contradiction to their commitment to their guests and employees,â€ said Louise Vetter, president of the American Lung Association of the City of New York and a spokeswoman for the New York City Coalition for a Smoke-Free City. â€œThe dangers of secondhand smoke are indisputable, and in New York City it is law to protect workers from secondhand smoke. We applauded Marriott, but to have this event in New York City and to create an exception â€” thereâ€™s no exception for public health.â€
Now, I don’t like whining about “smokers’ rights,” but c’mon. I enjoy a good cigar, and I’d like to attend the Big Smoke some time. As long as the hosting venues are taking such steps to ensure the health of other guests and employees, I don’t see any reason to try to stop it.