Tom Guinney needed a cigar. Back in the U.S. Navy, the then 19-year-old smoked Roitans at poker games. He swears it gave him an edge over the other players.
“I figured it was a distraction to them—almost a nuisance,” he said.
During his service, Guinney also sparked a nine-month love affair with cigarettes but quit cold turkey when the thought of getting lung cancer canceled out the nicotine buzz. Now, 37 years later, he still admits to puffing on a nice Arturo Fuente—just to relax the nerves—and in the moments preceding his meeting with an angry mob, he could have used that sweet relief.
A founding partner in Salt Lake City’s Gastronomy syndicate of eateries, Guinney had accepted an invitation to address local club owners about his proposed ban on smoking in private bars and taverns. In hindsight, his decision to defend the controversial plan on enemy turf was bold. The men and women gathered at Club 90 that November afternoon had long since pinned him as a threat to their livelihoods, and they planned to fight him all the way.
Guinney, who sits on the Salt Lake Valley Board of Health, has been considering a smoking ban for years. He hesitated to take action for the same reasons that inspired his fight against early efforts to ban smoking in restaurants.
“We didn’t need to be the first state [to enforce restrictions]. Utah doesn’t need that kind of press,” he said. “It would have been viewed as a religious issue. It would have made us look more peculiar in the eyes of the public.”
But since other states have taken the lead on smoke-free policies, Guinney thinks Utah can adopt a ban without drawing undue criticism.
Guinney’s anti-smoking crusade has provoked widespread debate over the government’s proxy to veto free enterprise in the name of public health. Supporters hail the ban as a boon to public health. The less cigarette smoke, the better. Opponents cite individual freedom and a fundamental right to choose. Secondhand smoke is dangerous to your health, or may be dangerous to your health, as skeptics argue, but the flipside of true liberty is the right to make poor decisions. Members of the Utah Hospitality Association, a group that represents some 60 private clubs, are spearheading the opposition. Many of those establishments sent representatives to the Club 90 Freedom Rally to protest and raise funds for a lobbyist willing to push their cause on the hill.
When Guinney showed up, he was greeted like a right-wing fundamentalist at a gay-rights parade. Throughout his speech, irate peers vocalized dissent, launching accusations and profanity: “Leave us alone and go run your damned Gastronomy,” “This is all politics—the Legislature doesn’t care if we lose money,” “We believe this is a free America,” “What is your personal agenda? You’re supposed to help us!”
Guinney paced the dance floor, clutching a mic close to his impeccably tailored suit. “I’m going to retreat before I get lynched,” he said, thanking the crowd before slipping outside for some fresh air. It was almost enough to make him reach for a cigar.
Guinney made another bold move Jan 16. As of Feb. 1, he announced, the private club segment of the Gastronomy restaurant chain would go smoke-free. The new ban will affect The New Yorker Club, the Wine Bar at Baci, and two Market Street Oyster Bars. His decision precedes the outcome of anti-smoking legislation winding through this year’s legislative session.
Guinney isn’t the only one blowing smoke. Lawmakers are on the move as well. Three smoking-related bills are scheduled for review: Sen. Michael Waddoups, R-West Jordan, wants to ban smoking in all private clubs and taverns; the proposal by Sen. Mike Dmitrich, D-Price, would restrict the ban to fine-dining establishments only; Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clinton, suggests the decision to nix cigarettes should be left up to individual municipalities.
“The thing about these smoking policies is that they aren’t religious policies, they aren’t moral policies—they are public-health issues,” Ray said. “With smoking, you have toxins that are harming employees and patrons. This is a bill that says, ‘You can’t do that—it’s not a safe working environment.’”
Waddoups, who supports the right to bear arms, thinks the personal-choice argument is not applicable to private-club employees. “If you’re talking about owners and clients, I agree 100 percent [that it’s their decision to smoke]. But I’m talking about the employees,” he said. “Try looking for a job nowadays that pays $2,000, $3,000, even $4,000 [a month]—they are hard to find. These are good jobs not easily replaced.” Waddoups added that employers hardly have the right to argue personal freedom if they don’t provide their workers with health insurance.
Guinney is encouraged by all three bills, but thinks Waddoups’ total ban offers the best solution. It is, after all, the one Guinney proposed in the first place.
“I am very respectful of the municipalities wanting to have control over their own destinies,” he said. “But [Ray’s] bill is too cluttered.” A comprehensive ban is simple and clean, he said.
Currently, eight states (California, New York, Delaware, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Idaho and Rhode Island) have passed smoke-free legislation including bans in bars. The trend has also swept countries like Ireland, Scotland and Italy, where citizens are responding with mixed reactions. Most of the resistance stems from a reluctance to abandon deeply ingrained cultural norms. For them, nicotine isn’t so much a habit as, well, a way of life.
Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson understands the impulse to reject radical restrictions—he’s spent his career combating conservative laws. However, as an ex-smoker whose parents died from emphysema, for him the issue of eliminating cigarettes in bars is long overdue. He thinks critics will eventually validate the ban’s importance. “It really is about cultural change, and with 50,000 Americans dying from secondhand smoke every year, it is absolutely the appropriate thing to do,” he said.
Anderson’s death-toll estimate is right on. Of the more than 50,000 Americans killed annually from secondhand-smoke-related illnesses, 3,000 nonsmokers die from lung cancer and 35,000 nonsmokers die from heart disease, according to data from the Utah Department of Health (UDOH).
Those numbers are troubling to anyone bothered by the implications of reeking like an ashtray after sharing a dance floor with chain-smoking hipsters. As Guinney pointed out, however, patrons spend significantly less time soaking up secondhand smoke than employees clocking in eight-hour shifts.
“We aren’t talking about Gladys who’s worked at the local pub for 20 years. We’re talking about short-term respiratory diseases. We’re talking about low birth rates,” he said, adding that such suffering is needless given our understanding of tobacco-related health risks.
“The debate over whether smoking would kill you was over 20 years ago. The debate over secondhand smoke was over 10 years ago—and we’re still dinking around with it. One of my messages to my cohorts is that we need to get this cleaned up on our watch,” Guinney said.
When it comes to clearing the air, Utah is on par with other health-conscious states. According to UDOH media coordinator Lena Dibble, however, tobacco-free programs have dwindled in number and frequency since 1995’s Utah Indoor Clean Air Act pushed smokers outside for their post-meal Marlboro.
In order to remedy the lull, UDOH officials recently surveyed six smoke-friendly bars and clubs to measure for volatile organic compounds. They also selected one smoke-free bar as a control. Key findings emerged, including data showing high levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, and carbon dioxide present in smoke-friendly establishments. Slight traces of those chemicals were present in the nonsmoking club, but nothing alarming. Carbon dioxide levels in the first six clubs exceeded the EPA recommended 1,000 parts per million. UDOH found levels close to about 2,300 to 3,000 parts per million—not exactly the makings for an ideal workplace environment. The evidence is compelling, but is it enough to validate a ban?
“We know that policies that reduce cigarette smoke lead to better health for workers and patrons. We also know people are more likely to quit,” Dibble said. “We’ve been encouraging bars and clubs to go smoke-free for some time.” Like Anderson, she thinks it’s just a matter of time before everyone forms a similar view.
“Several years ago, smoking was allowed on planes, and now I have a hard time imagining how that was even possible,” she said. “At first, the Indoor Clean Air Act seemed strange, but now it’s strange when you go to other states and see people smoking in restaurants.”
Utah Division of Air Quality Director Rick Sprott added his two cents to the debate over secondhand smoke. He dismisses claims by local residents who think it’s just as dangerous to jog outside on no-burn days than it is to grab a few drinks at their neighborhood watering hole.
“Generally speaking, except maybe on the very worst days, even when it looks like heck outside, a lot of it is just fog and little ice particles,” he said. “The level of pollution that we have around here is nowhere near the concentrations you’re getting from smoke. I would pick standing outside versus 6 to 8 hours in a nightclub’s smoke-filled room.
Sprott added that DAQ has a responsibility to reduce outdoor pollutants, because they affect everyone. “We can’t say, it’s OK, go ahead and pollute. People can’t stay inside,” he said.
Guinney, who grew up in a blue-collar, pro-union, Democrat family, thinks the hospitality industry has a similar responsibility to ensure safe air quality indoors. He sees the smoking ban as a workers’ rights issue, one governed by employers. That’s why he’s taking a proactive approach by squashing butts in his own establishments.
“There was no reason to wait on something I was going to do anyway,” he said, adding that Gastronomy employees are pleased with his decision. “One woman actually started to cry.”
Bob Brown, owner of Cheers to You and spokesman for the Utah Hospitality Association, doesn’t buy Guinney’s altruistic motivations. He applauds the restaurateur’s shrewd business sense, but thinks Guinney’s approach will benefit Gastronomy while hurting other clubs that depend on smoking clientele. “When you’re in those clubs, you get the sensation you’re in a restaurant. People eating at The New Yorker are probably less likely to smoke than those who frequent a normal dance club or your neighborhood bar,” he said.
Brown pointed out that, unlike residents in California and New York, the majority of Utahns are absent from the local club scene. “Seventy percent of Utah residents are LDS. Smoking or not, they don’t typically go to bars—but they do go out to eat,” he said. “The same person who goes to The New Yorker is not going to start going to my bar, because we don’t specialize in food. I really don’t think this ban is going to affect [Guinney’s] business.”
Micky Luras-Larsen, owner of downtown smokers’ central stalwart X-Wife’s Place, said Utah’s stringent alcohol laws further complicate tobacco-free initiatives. As it stands, Utah club owners are unable to buy alcohol at wholesale prices. She thinks that if bars could make a decent profit from alcohol sales, a smoking ban would be less harsh.
“The very first thing about all of this is that the state should not be in the liquor business. It’s hard to make a buck in Utah when you can’t charge for liquor,” she said.
Luras-Larsen opened My Wife’s Place with then-husband Andy Lewis. When the couple divorced, she took the reins and built a name for herself on the local scene. In fact, the shoe-box-size bar maintains quite a cult following among locals looking for an unpretentious place to shoot pool. But the now X-Wife’s Place has suffered under state-mandated restrictions.
While Guinney feels a responsibility to protect his employees, Luras-Larsen believes it’s up to her to deliver what the customer wants—not what she thinks they need.
Local lobbyist Steve Barth, who is representing Utah Hospitality Association members opposed to anti-smoking legislation, thinks the workers’ rights issue cuts both ways. “[Ban supporters] will tell you that this is all about the employees. Well, those employees work in bars because they can smoke.” And, might want a job that will allow them to smoke during their shift. “It may not be the most healthy habit to have, but it’s still a personal choice,” he said.
Barth has been representing local clubs for six years. Experience tells him the issue comes down to individual freedoms. “You have to be 21 to go into a private club and you know what you’re getting into when you pay for a membership to get in,” he said.
Guinney disagrees. “The attitude that employees choose to work in a particular environment and if they don’t like it, move along, well it’s just a very shallow thought process,” he said. “People who work in the private-club industry make an income that can support them or a family, or put them through college. These are not disposable jobs.” Guinney added that workers are not going to pull the same income at Chili’s that they would at Port O’ Call.
A number of private clubs find merit in Guinney’s argument. Unlike the Gastronomy partner, however, they can’t afford to ban smoking on their own. That’s why places like Shaggy’s Living Room and Todd’s Bar & Grill support restrictions for all clubs. Their goal is to establish a level playing field for all.
Anderson, who met with bar owners last month to discuss the ban’s pros and cons, believes there is less dissent than critics of the proposal would like to see. Most private clubs understand the possible gains they’ll achieve by jumping on a national trend, he said. “Smoking bans are actually very good for business. In the first six months of a [smoking] ban in New York, bars and restaurants saw more in tax revenues than when smoking was allowed,” he said, adding that opponents are just being irrational.
“We’re actually hearing a lot of the same arguments now that we heard from restaurant owners and people who wanted to smoke in their offices [when the Indoor Clean Air Act was imposed].”
Cheers to You’s Brown doesn’t care about the potential payoff. “If this law goes through and my bar does 20 percent increased sales, I’m still going to be upset,” he said. “Who are they to tell me what to do?” Brown keeps to his own business, he said, and wishes Guinney would follow suit.
That might be wishful thinking. Guinney isn’t budging from his workers rights platform. He said his commitment to the industry exceeds all other concerns. Employees’ health heads his agenda. In response to claims Gastronomy’s business will benefit from a ban, Guinney just laughs.
“When I first joined this community in 1980, you were not allowed to have a glass of wine in a public restaurant because the private clubs had a lot of political clout, and they thought I was going to be competition,” he said. “Do you really think I was going to lose business to Murphy’s or the Zephyr? I don’t think so. I also don’t think people from Shaggy’s are going to start going to the Oyster Bar more often—it’s just a different constituency.”
Maybe so. But critics aren’t buying Guinney’s logic. They’ll never believe he doesn’t have something to gain besides a few grateful employees. They’ll always wonder how many patrons of P.F Chang’s, a nonsmoking restaurant that attracts a similar clientele to that of Gastronomy, will start eating in Guinney’s establishments when cigarettes are relegated to the streets. To them, this is all just a smoke screen—and they’ll always be outside looking in.
INHALE, EXHALE, VENT
Tom Guinney once asked, “Are you going to stop going to Market Street Grill for $3.95 eggs Benedict on Sunday because you can’t have a cigarette? You’ll probably just walk outside.”
Tell that to the locals City Weekly gathered for a no-holds-barred smokers’ forum.
These devoted tobacco lovers agreed to share their thoughts on clubs and cigarettes at O’Shuck’s Bar and Grill, 22 E. 100 South, and the ban that could end it all. Participants included: Computer software designer Clark Stacey, freelance/technical writer Dave Neale, Piper Down server Cherish Erikson, City Weekly business manager Rick Smith, and publicist Levi Elder. During the course of the evening, our characters tossed around, then seriously considered holding a “smoke-in” at the City & County Building. Some labeled themselves as oppressed clowns, one considered the possibility of smokers being led to internment camps, another threw out random Pink Floyd references in addition to heralding Frampton Comes Alive as the greatest album of all time. This is their story.
City Weekly: When did you start smoking?
Clark: I started when I was 15 because my friends told me that if I smoked some cigarettes, my parents wouldn’t be able to smell the beer on my breath.
Dave: My friends weren’t even that innovative.
Clark: Eventually I quit for five years, using gum and self-hypnosis. I started again because of my sister who isn’t here to defend herself so I can tell you that she made me smoke more cigarettes in Cancun and I realized the folly of quitting in the first place.
Levi: I started smoking when I was 12. I stole a pack of Salems from my grandmother—I wanted my voice to be deeper. But, I don’t know if I’m a real smoker because I kind of go through fits and starts.
CW: How do you feel about anti-smoking legislation?
Clark: It’s fundamentally wrong—it’s morally wrong. It would be very easy to put the same sort of smoking terrariums they have at the airport—separate but equal facilities. But you know why they won’t? Because all the cool people will be in there.
CW: What’s your take on those spearheading the ban?
Clark: Rocky is an ex-smoker, and I think part of the problem there is that no one is more insufferable and wrongheaded about the subject of smoking than an ex-smoker. I was one for a while myself.
Rick: Right, and you were a dick.
Clark: It’s a very popular move. Everyone will jump on a smoking ban. ‘Oh yeah, I don’t smoke, I don’t like people who smoke and I don’t like smelling like smoke, so I say we ban it.’ And then we’ll come to them and say, ‘All right, we’re going to control which burgers can be advertised to you from now on because they’re costing us a lot of money, and I don’t like looking at fat people in the bar.’
Dave: There is a difference though, I mean that’s a clever analogy, but a fat person sitting across the table from me doesn’t necessarily threaten my health. The point is that secondhand smoke is harmful to people.
Clark: It’s very harmful to people .... Why don’t we have the same douche-bags from the DABC who check up on bars to make sure everyone complies with liquor laws? They can purchase, for $25 on the Net, a Scientific American air-testing purity kit. They can use the kit and say, ‘I’m sorry, your air sucks. Put some air cleaners in here and fix it, or we’re shutting you down.’ I’m sorry but unless the air in here is worse than the air outside. ...
Levi: You have a choice whether or not to be in a smoking club. I think the largest problem is that the cool kids aren’t necessarily hanging out in spots like the Tavernacle. I mean I’m sure they get a good crowd but I think the fact that you can’t smoke there makes people go other places.
(Levi is a part-time resident of New York City, which adopted an anti-smoking ban in March 2003. Despite his “cool-kid theory,” he isn’t aware of any negative impacts suffered by bars there following that city’s ban.)
Levi: It seems like the ban went out with a whisper, like, ‘Oh bummer we can’t smoke.’ I think the outrage was mainly neighbors upset about people standing in the streets, smoking and talking, being noisy.
CW: Would you still go to nonsmoking clubs?
Levi: I enjoy smoking, but it’s really nice to go home and not be all stinky, and I feel better the next day—I’m not going to lie. But, I don’t think it should be a government issue.
Clark: If a club wants to allow smoking, I don’t see what’s wrong with mandating that they have to provide a separate area for it. They can make it a glass enclosure so that all the whiners can see the cool people and we can wave to them and they can tap on the glass and we can pose for them.
Dave: There’s a huge component of social smoking and drinking. But we managed to come up with a compromise for all-ages venues that allow drinking, so why can’t we come up with something that allows smoking in an establishment in the same way?
Clark: If you’re a club owner in a state that legally will not permit you to make money off of alcohol sales, then you’re not working off really big margins.
Levi: Are people going to start staying home because they can’t smoke in clubs anymore?
Clark: Smokers will go to their club, and whiners will go to a different one and then the whiners will say, ‘Oh we want to go to the cool-people club anyway.’
Rick: How about the Oyster Bar? Can you imagine not smoking during Sunday brunch when you’re so goddamned hungover and you roll up there and you get your eggs Benedict and you have your cigarette?
Dave: There’s been many a time when Oyster Bar has been the default choice because it allows smoking. It comes back to what we were discussing earlier—personal choice—that should be where the legislation ends. Adults can make up their minds as to whether they want to walk through that door—this is an establishment I want to go to, I’m purchasing a f—king membership! Also, why in the hell is one of the owners of Gastronomy being allowed to drive this legislation? I mean it’s Guinney’s money—that’s his clientele. It’s one thing for him to say, ‘OK I want to create this environment for my clientele which I already know and is well established and turns over every year,’ but why does everyone else have to eat this guy’s s—t sandwich?
Cherish: Because he wants to make sure his clientele doesn’t have another place to go, another restaurant option where people can have their drink and have their smoke with their meal.
Dave: Well, that’s a marketing problem as opposed to a public-health problem. I brought up earlier the idea that if the employees of a club that I frequent voted and decided that for whatever reason we want to make this a nonsmoking environment, then I would support it. And I would still go there. Can you support that?
Rick: Well, but that’s too pragmatic and logical. This is a moral issue. We can sit and debate this all night long, but this is a moral issue
Dave: As opposed to a public-health issue?
Rick: Right. As opposed to a health issue or a logistical issue or anything else. This is a moral issue. This is, ‘Let’s stop smoking.’ This isn’t ‘Let’s isolate it and let people have freedom of choice. Let’s allow them to go out and do what they want to do.’ No. It’s, ‘Basically, we don’t like this, it’s not conducive to whatever—it’s not what we want the image of our state to be.’ We can debate this until the cows come home, but this is not logical at all. This is morality, and there’s no logic in morality.
Dave: This kind of legislation always comes top down. When we’re talking about morality, it’s always coming top down, as opposed to occurring at a local level letting a club decide what it’s going to do about smoking.
Clark: They’re going to focus on workers’ rights because it’s the only sort of pull that they have. If it’s my club, I’m going to make sure that anyone with the sniffles has to stand outside so I don’t get SARS. I mean, at what point do I get to ban everything that pisses me off?
Rick: Soon, hopefully
CW: Where will you go if the ban is enforced?
Cherish: I’ll probably be sitting on my porch with a cocktail, smoking a cigarette. I’ll probably stop going to a lot of bars. In all reality, if you can hang out on your front porch and have your cocktail and cigarette, and have your friends there, then why the f—k would you go to a club where they’re not going to let you engage in those activities?
Levi: Turn on your ghetto-blaster and you’ve got the same thing.
Dave: There are certain clubs I frequent because of the atmosphere and the liquors they serve. But even that would start to go. I would stop going to the bars that I don’t frequent very often—I would just cut them out.
Clark: They want me to stay home and smoke on my porch? F—k them. F—k them until they have gills. In fact, I’m going to go to the City & County Building to smoke. I like it there—it’s nice.
Rick: Oh yeah. Right across from the library. You can still smoke in the library, right?
Clark: Yes. Right in the kids’ section.
CW: Would you be upset if nonsmoking clubs became the norm?
Clark: I wouldn’t be sad. I would be incarcerated, because I’m not going to stop smoking in clubs. I guarantee there will be one or two bars that will buck it.
Rick: But that can only last so long. There was this place in San Diego where they wouldn’t give you an ashtray, they would give you a plate. And they wouldn’t say a word about it, but you could smoke. Eventually they got fined to the tune of about $3,000 and now, just like a lot of places, they can’t afford to fight a ban.
Clark: Italy wanted to ban smoking, but they required instead that if you want to have smoking then you need a floor-to-ceiling wall blocking it off, and that there be a separate facility from the rest of the club. This is f—king Italy. They’ve had more than 40 governments since the Marshall Plan and they managed to come up with something. And not only that, but 12 out of 10 people in Italy smoke.
(While it’s true that Italy passed a law allowing businesses to permit smoking if they build a separate area for smokers, complete with hermetic floor-to-ceiling enclosures and powerful ventilation pushing smoke outside, reports indicate that less than a third of Italians are heavy smokers.)
Dave: It pisses me off that it comes down to [the ban being] legislated this way or the other—period. There’s no room for an adult choice to be made. You asked, ‘Are you going to be sad if a year from now I can smoke or not smoke in a particular establishment?’ No, I’m going to be pissed off that no one made a compromise.
Cherish: I’ve had two brothers get killed by cars—we haven’t banned cars.
CW: Do you think this legislation will be passed? How do you plan to respond?
Rick: I’m going to make a concerted effort to smoke more.
Clark: I’m going to start fires.
Dave: I’m going to wait for this f—king hysteria to wash over the nation, and in the culture of molten slag that exists afterwards I am going to start smoking wherever I want. News_&_Columns A proposed smoking ban in Utah’s private clubs might make you healthy, but it could kill SLC nightlife. Ashes to Ashes 1CA80379-2BF4-55D0-F1FE377BEF730FE4 2007-06-11 15:19:39.0 1 1 8D9C3FD1-A7F8-8F33-05D2B1E2531BBEE5 1 2005-01-27 00:00:00.0 14 0
It’s another gray, Utah winter morning. The inversion is thick. The air is damp. And it’s cold. Not as if this is anything new. You dive into your normal pre-work routine, finish breakfast, and head out to start the car before heading back inside to brush your teeth. One last glance in the mirror, give the dog a treat and head out the door … to find your car stolen.
Far from a far-fetched start to another winter day, unattended idling cars are a regular sight in most neighborhoods on winter mornings. Drivers might think they are doing their cars good. But what are they doing to the air? Thickening our inversion with pollution. What are they doing to the neighbor’s kids? Increasing the likelihood of asthma attacks in children. What are they doing to your insurance rates? Increasing them. What are they doing to the earth? Just warming it up a bit.
Outside of Salt Lake City, more communities are beginning to take steps to reduce the time vehicles spend idling. For police and insurance companies, these efforts are driven by a desire to reduce auto thefts. For environmentalists, the urgency to slow global warming is all encompassing. For health-care workers, the link between the pollution that comes from our tailpipes and a list of health woes is inescapable. So join us for a primer on the perils of stationary, smoking autos.
Many people are adamant that their car engine will be damaged if they head out on a cold morning and don’t spend several minutes idling. But let’s ditch the opinion of the guy at the local garage and head directly to an expert. Here’s a question and answer session with Mike Vaughn, who was public affairs manager of Global Technology for Ford Motor Company in Detroit, Mich.
Q: Is there benefit in idling your car to warm up the engine?
A: Not really. The engine is most efficient after it reaches optimal operation temperatures, but it reaches those temperatures much faster through gentle driving. And your transmission, tires, wheel bearings, steering and suspension need to warm up, too. That only happens by driving the car.
Q: Is there harm done to the engine by prolonged idling?
A: We’ve had test engines idling for thousands of hours without significant changes. I’m not sure I have seen anything to back up the idea that excessive idling causes buildup in cylinders or fouls plugs.
Q: So no harm, but no help. Pretty much you should start your car and go?
A: Yes. Modern gasoline vehicles are designed to start up and drive. Start your car, put on your seatbelt, lock the doors, perhaps play with the radio dial and it is time to go. Drive the car gently until the temperature gauge shows movement. For most of us, that will take just a few blocks. I guess if you live on a highway onramp, there is benefit in idling. But I don’t know of many people who live on the highway onramp. Idling mostly just lowers your fuel economy. It is one reason most people’s average miles per gallon drop in the winter.
Q: What about idling at the drive through or convenience store? Do repeated starts wear out the starter or other parts?
A: Your modern car is designed to withstand hundreds of thousands of starts without unusual wear on any part. I wouldn’t worry about your starter.
Q: Why do you think so many people continue to idle their cars on cold mornings?
A: Some of it might come from what they learned from their fathers, based on older cars that needed a warm-up period. But that is not the case with new cars. But really, I think most of it comes from wanting the inside of the car warm. People just don’t want to be cold for the few minutes it takes for the engine to reach operating temperatures and the heater to warm up the passenger compartment. They will tell you it is to warm up the engine, but really it is to warm up themselves.
Q: You live in Michigan, and I know it gets pretty cold there in the winter. Do you idle your car?
A: Nope, I have seat heaters—a great invention.
Stop and give me 10
According to tips found on the Utah Department of Environmental Quality Website, the quicker you are to kill the engine, the better. Ten seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting the engine.
You pull into the office parking lot and just can’t bear to leave before hearing the last of Rush Limbaugh’s lecture. Or maybe the day will be a wreck if you don’t hear the final four minutes of “Stairway to Heaven.” Surely, then, it’s alright to keep the car running to indulge your aural fix? Nope. Your car battery can handle this one just fine. No need to waste all that gas. Using just the radio, your car battery draws about a half amp of current per hour. If you listened for 24 hours, you’d use only about 20 percent of the battery’s power. And then you’d be really late for work.
Up in smoke
“So what if my car doesn’t benefit from idling. What harm am I doing?”
Here’s what chugs forth from your tailpipe: carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, suspended particles and volatile organic compounds. Nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds are the two main substances involved in the formation of ozone, a component of smog. Ozone and suspended particles are included in the group of chemicals associated with significant respiratory health effects and hospital admissions.
The city of Toronto, one of North America’s most aggressive foes of idling autos, estimates that if every driver in the city avoided five minutes of idling per day, the city could shed 79 tons of carbon dioxide every day from its atmosphere. Toronto residents could also avoid wasting a collective 8,700 gallons of gas per day, a savings of more than $25,800 in Canadian dollars. That’s for one city, one day. Now imagine the cumulative effects over the course of one year.
Closer to Utah, Logan received unwelcome attention when it was reported during the winter of 2004 that the lovely Cache Valley contained the nation’s dirtiest air. Subsequent stories challenged the monitoring as flawed, and Logan came away saying that its air was indeed bad, but not quite as bad as first thought. But at the time, Logan’s drastically unhealthy air called for drastic measures. Drivers were asked to cease idling their cars. Drive-thrus were shut down.
Diesel emissions contain toxic chemicals increasing the risk of asthma, lung and heart disease and are responsible for as many as 125,000 cancers nationwide. Dr. John Wargo of Yale University reported that students on school buses are exposed to 5 to 15 times the levels of particulate pollution than at nearby monitoring sites. The United Sates’ EPA has determined that diesel fumes contain 40 toxic chemicals, including 15 carcinogens.
Stay away from the tailpipe
Auto exhaust is thought to be the leading cause of accidental carbon-monoxide poisoning in North America. Cars idling in the garage, even with the garage door open, are pumping deadly carbon monoxide into the house. The gas becomes trapped in the garage and can easily disperse through the house’s framing joints, door jambs and ductwork seams.
Tracking accidental carbon monoxide deaths from auto exhaust in the barest of “just the facts, ma’am” style is the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. It lists more than 160 such deaths from its collection of 1998 death certificates. But even the barest of facts present an ugly picture. In one incident, eight people, including four kids 10 years of age or younger, died when two adults left their truck running in the garage so they could listen to the radio. The carbon monoxide killed them all.
Slop on the slopes
It’s hard to find a climate scientist not on the payroll of an oil, gas or coal company who doubts the current phenomenon of global warming. Even Texas oilman George W. Bush once said, on record, that global warming is real. According to a November 2004 report from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, “There is increasingly strong evidence that the observed global climate change, particularly that of the past 50 years, is primarily the result of human emissions of greenhouse gases.” The 1990s decade featured seven of the 10 warmest years on record. Tailpipe emissions play a significant role in global warming. And no one expects gasoline-burning autos to go away anytime soon. But there are ways to limit those emissions. Turning off a car that’s going nowhere is an easy start.
In 1999 the Union of Concerned Scientists produced one of the most detailed studies of anticipated effects of global warming in the continental United States. Titled “Confronting Climate Change in California,” the report drew a bleak conclusion after looking at the Sierras and their bountiful snow. Based on historical records, the authors showed that small increases in temperature increased the snow-to-rain ratio in the Sierras. Even a few degrees more means the snowline rises and more winter precipitation falls as rain, instead of snow. More rain thins the snow pack, giving reservoirs less of a chance to restock from the gradual spring and summer runoff and, as a consequence, increasing the likelihood of winter flash floods and landslides. And as anyone who has skied this winter in Utah can tell you, after January downpours as high as 8,500 feet, it’s no fun to ski in the rain.
The National Ski Areas Association publishes “Sustainable Slopes,” a voluntary list of environmental guidelines. In Utah, every downhill ski area except Brian Head and Powder Mountain resorts considers itself a member of the Sustainable Slopes family. The guidelines address matters such as forest management, or minimizing the removal of trees through careful design of trails, and waste reduction, such as the use of washable or compostable tableware in cafeterias and lodges. But look for the section that requires buses to shut down, rather than idle for hours waiting for the tour group to come back. Not there. How about the section requesting that the skiing public not run their cars while changing from their ski boots into driving shoes? Not there. How about a section encouraging ski area employees not to sit in idling vehicles for a few hours each morning while on parking lot duty? Nope. The smart skier might want to get windshield wipers for those goggles.
Gone in 60 seconds
Funny the number of people who leave the keys in the ignition of their running car, walk away and then are surprised to find their car stolen. But it happens quite often in these parts. The Salt Lake City Police Department noted early last year that 50 percent of the cars stolen in the city had keys in the ignition. Someone trolling for an easy theft won’t find the pickings much easier.
And there must be a lot of people out there looking for the easy pick. According to the FBI 2002 Crime Index, 32 percent of auto thefts take place in the West. This region, which includes Utah, has the nation’s highest auto theft percentage.
Our neighbors in Denver have a lower rate of providing easy gifts to thieves. There, only 23 percent of stolen cars have keys left in ignitions. But in the past few years, the Denver police have started to educate the city’s drivers to the dangers of walking away from their idling autos. Don’t be so foolish, drivers were told in this anti-theft campaign. There must have been a few red faces around the precinct when, this past November, a Denver detective started her car in the driveway, headed back inside while it warmed up, only to have her unmarked car stolen.
Why even care when the sap on the next block virtually gives away the family sedan? Because your auto insurance rates go up. The more claims from a region, the more costs an insurance company has. And those costs get passed on to you, according to Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association. Not all auto theft is preventable, Walker acknowledges. But leaving the keys in an unattended, running auto fits squarely into her definition of a preventable crime. And it costs all of us in increased premiums.
Not everyone who starts their car and walks away leaves the car unlocked, however. From information provided by locksmiths who service their clients, AAA Utah estimates that, in 2002, approximately 1,140 of their lockout calls were for vehicles locked while running.
The law is the law
Turn your car on and walk away, and you are violating Utah law. Utah code 41-6-105, Motor Vehicles Left Unattended, states that no person in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit it to stand unattended without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition and removing the key. Salt Lake City has a similar traffic code entry. And people are ticketed for violating it. Usually you have to be dumb enough to pull up next to a cop at a convenience store and walk in without turning off your car. The majority of unattended auto thefts happen in residential areas, but the majority of ticketing happens in commercial and retail settings.
You are not violating the law if the idling car is in your own driveway, according to Salt Lake City Detective Phil Eslinger. But walk away from an idling vehicle on a public street and you are breaking the law. Pull that same car into your driveway, and it is a different story. You won’t keep thieves or carbon monoxide away, but you will keep the police at bay.
The same cannot be said for an increasing number of states and municipalities. It’s estimated that at least half of the states have some form of anti-idling law on the books, but the enforcement picture is far from clear. In North America, perhaps no one is as strict as the City of Toronto. The city kicked off a public awareness campaign with the motto “Idling gets you nowhere,” and asked residents to turn their cars off when they were not moving. After a few years of slogans and advertising, the whip came down. Now, idling for more than three minutes comes with a heavy cost.
A first offense draws a ticket of $105 in Canadian dollars, plus a provincial surcharge of $25. Repeat offenders face higher fines.
“The idling campaign is having a positive impact by increasing awareness of the health effects of idling,” said Monica Campbell, manager of environmental protection from the Toronto public health department. “There have been some tickets, but mostly we have issued warnings. Most of the people receiving warnings were not aware of the ordinance.”
Toronto is currently considering lowering the three-minute idle time to a shorter time, but that time has not been designated. “The concept is to go idle-free. We are trying to have the thought change from ‘It is OK to idle for three minutes’ to ‘idling is unneccesary.’”
A December 2001 study of 1,000 respondents by the Toronto Atmospheric Fund found that 55 percent of the respondents said they never idled more than 3 minutes, while 8 percent said they idled at least that long on a daily basis.
For many kids, school is the place with the highest danger of exposure to dangerous vehicle emissions. Try this: Go to any elementary school about 20 minutes before class lets out for the day. Count the number of parents waiting to drive their kids home who keep the car running. Perhaps mom or dad doesn’t realize they are adding to the muck that so often wins our air quality the unenviable label of unhealthy.
It could be worse. Awareness of the harmful effects of idling diesels has changed the way bus drivers across the state do business. Brent Huffman is pupil transportation specialist for the Utah State Office of Education. Huffman is the state’s bus guy. He’s made sure bus drivers in each of the state’s 40 school districts know to turn off the engine while waiting outside schools. Through his efforts, each district received a copy of an EPA DVD that discusses idling buses and students’ health. Titled “Reducing school bus idling, the key to a healthier ride,” the DVD presentation instructs drivers to limit the warm-up time each morning and do all they can to eliminate idling outside schools.
Huffman knows the health effects of idling buses. He also knows dollars, and in times of tight budgets and crowded schools, Huffman has found that turning off the key has turned up much needed savings. By his estimates, reducing idling in the state’s fleet of approximately 2,200 school buses by 45 minutes per day, down from about one hour per bus to about 15 minutes each days, saves about $19,800 per year.
The state of Minnesota has gone further in its attack on idling vehicles at schools. Research found that buses idling through cold Minnesota winters created clouds of fumes that were being sucked into school air-intake vents, reducing the safety of classroom air quality. In 2002, the state passed a law to reduce the unnecessary idling of buses in front of schools and reroute bus-parking zones away from air-intake vents. At the same time, the state’s schools campaigned parents to turn off their cars while waiting outside the school.
Now that you know, what can be done about it? Don’t idle your car, obviously. Don’t sit in drive-thrus with the engine running. There might be a bit more whining now, but we’ll all be better off in the long run. And don’t wrap up that fun day of sledding by running the car for 10 minutes at the parking lot, or else some day you’ll be telling the grandkids, “Sure was a lot more snow when I was a kid.”
If you want to be really bold, ask someone to turn off his or her car. This is particularly easy where skiers, boarders or sledders congregate. Millcreek Canyon, the resorts, Mountain Dell. One would assume these people like snow, and are willing to do just a little bit to make sure we have it here for generations to come.
Perhaps you think all of this is hooey—none of it really affects you. In that case, you might be interested in this final tidbit: At rest, an adult breathes between 12 and 20 times per minute. During a Ripley’s Believe It or Not episode on television, one contestant, Mandy-Rae Cruikshank, held her breath 4 minutes and 14 seconds. You don’t want what comes out of your idling car going into your lungs. So stop inhaling for a while. How long can you go? News_&_Columns How idling vehicles warm the planet, make us sick and do our cars no good. Idle Threat 1CA803C7-2BF4-55D0-F1FA2B44A0E2584B 2007-06-11 15:19:39.0 1 1 1 2005-02-03 00:00:00.0 17 0
Compiled By Bill Frost
The call went out a little over a month ago: Send your stories of horrific breakups, gooey makeups and just plain ol’ L-U-V to City Weekly for possible inclusion in our experimental Valentine’s Day-related issue, Big Dumb Love. Seemed like a no-brainer: People share their romantic yarns all the time without the slightest provocation. Get a few drinks in ’em and they won’t shut up until last call.
But, when it came to going, as we say in the journalism biz, “on the record,” all that big talk shrank to the size of a pastel Be Mine candy.
“Oh, I’ve got a great story, you’d never believe it … but I can’t give it to you—the other person involved might read it and get mad.” Or “hurt.” Or “litigious.” Or “paroled.” Even with the promise of anonymity, most just didn’t have the stones to commit their tales to ink.
Thankfully, a few brave and literate (if still anonymous) souls did come forward in the name of Big Dumb Love—some possibly under the influence of illegal substances, some deadly serious, some vividly bitter, some crazy in love, some just flat-out crazy. But they came.
Only one of the dozens—yes, dozens; no three-digit marks were broken in the making of this feature—of submissions dealt directly with Valentine’s Day itself, but it was certainly more than enough to skewer Cupid:
Valentine’s Day: A day where love spreads like wildfire. Or syphilis. Like the disease it shares initials with, my experience has shown Valentines are usually from someone who gives a little lovin,’ then leaves a whole lotta somethin’ for you to enjoy over and over.
Like the guy I met one Feb. 14 on a blind date. (Hint: Never go on a blind date set up by a mullet-loving friend you last saw at age 14, pregnant.) He seemed pretty normal—besides the fact he had a large, self-etched AC/DC tattoo, presumably guided by JÃ¤germeister. I’d almost forgotten him until I woke up a few nights later to see the guy standing over my bed, staring at me as if he’d been hired to do a dirty deed, dirt-cheap. When I asked him politely—while scanning my room for a large, blunt object—how he’d gotten into my house, he replied, “I wanted to watch you sleep so I broke in. I didn’t think you’d mind. Don’t worry, I’ve only been watching for about 20 minutes.”
On my most memorable Feb. 14, I had just become engaged (to a different guy) and wanted to make a good impression on my fiancÃ©. I spent the entire day cooking and turning my apartment into a Martha Stewart masterpiece. I even went so far as to write a Valentine’s poem and frame it, all for him. Imagine my elation later that evening when he finally uttered those three magical words: “Honey, I’m gay.” The best part? He called me a year later to tell me he was getting married … to a woman. Guess what day it was.
Sometimes you just don’t see the dump truck coming, as this poor dude’s story (only one of several he submitted, unlucky bastard) will attest:
It was an amazing relationship. We had so much fun together; she was smart, funny, beautiful, and could kick my ass quite well. I fell instantly in love and after two months of dating, she told me she felt the same. The relationship continued and just got better with every day—every day until my birthday, that is.
She showed up on my birthday in a sexy outfit that just about made me beg for birthday sex as soon as I laid my already-buzzed eyes on her—and when I saw the cute little Asian friend she’d brought with her, I was seriously hoping for something special indeed. As the party proceeded, she coyly asked me to follow her to my bedroom. We sat in silence for a second before she began talking, and I was trying my damnedest to hold in the excitement for what I thought she was going to ask me.
But, instead of asking if it was OK to bring this new girl to bed with us, she was explaining how she had been cheating on me with her for the past couple of weeks and was breaking up with me, on my birthday, for her. I knew she was bi when I met her, but I really didn’t expect this. I went out and got so drunk that I had a hangover for a week … happy birthday to me.
More so than Valentine’s Day, birthdays seemed to be a particularly touchy Big Dumb Love subject:
I dated a girl, worked for her mom and lived with her sister—just so you have an idea how screwed up the whole thing was. On her birthday, I threw her a party and invited all her friends. Well, she’s psycho and freaked out because she thought, since everyone had so much fun planning her party, she was no longer needed.
She got one of her friends to break into my apartment and steal all of her presents—which she would have gotten anyway had she not freaked out—then told her mom, my boss, that I’d raped her. Then she threatened to kill herself. In a single day, I lost my girlfriend, my job and my roommate.
But, while the tales of terror were plentiful, one hopeless romantic was not to be outdone:
It’s amazing what love can do. How it can turn your life 180 degrees. It’s almost been a year since I met my husband. My story isn’t about him being psycho, or the two of us breaking up. It’s about how we met.
A year ago, my life had hit rock bottom. I was partying every day. My own father wouldn’t hear from me for months. My old friends weren’t around, because I didn’t want them to see what my life had become: I was a stripper at a local club, and drugged out of my mind. I refused to date anyone because, in my eyes at that time, all men were scum. I hated all of them. Working as a stripper, I saw the worst examples of how men treat women. I was starting to come to the conclusion that I would spend the rest of my life alone.
I was working one Sunday night. It was dead. There were only five customers in the whole place, and it was my turn to go onstage. I was making my way up when a customer started to go over to the pool tables. I ran over to get him to come watch (how else was I going to make any money?) when I stopped, looked at his face … I fell in love with him right there. It was the strangest thing being so drawn to someone like that. (He came back to watch, of course.)
After my dance, I sat down with him and his friends. We started talking and, for the first time, I actually enjoyed my evening at work. At closing time, I was afraid that I would never see him again. I leaned over to him and whispered my phone number, and asked him if he’d call—even though, if you’re a stripper, its a huge no-no to give out your number or even to associate with a customer outside of work. I went home hoping he’d call.
The next morning, he’d called twice before I even woke up. Usually that would be really creepy, but I was afraid that he wouldn’t call at all. Our relationship took off from there. I felt like someone really cared for the first time. He made me feel like I was alive again.
A month to the day after we met, I quit my job. Shortly after, I quit drugs and smoking. I went back to making $50 a day instead of $500 and, for the first time, I was in love. We’ve been married now for two-and-a-half months. He’s the best thing to happen to me. He’s helped me gain what money couldn’t buy: my self-respect. He was my knight in shining armor, and he rescued me from myself.
Feeling just a bit too gooey on the inside after that one? This should help:
My love for him was platonic. His love for me? Psychotic. We had a lot of fun together; he was spontaneous, and that fed my desire for excitement. But, as we got to know each other more, I knew he was not “the one.” But, for some reason, he thought he was. I adamantly told him on numerous occasions that if he ever proposed, I would say no. I guess he thought I was joking.
It was around Easter, and I was sick in bed. He came over with an Easter basket for me—he was always the sentimental type. I thanked him and closed my eyes to rest, but he wanted me to look through the basket right then and there. I told him I was sick, and I’d do it later. He became obnoxiously persistent; I became annoyed. He saw a mountain; I saw a molehill.
I then found out why he was making such a big deal about the basket: There was an engagement ring inside. I was so shocked that I would not look at the ring he was shoving in my face. I just lay there in bed—sick, tired and confused by his behavior. He was upset that I wouldn’t look at the ring, this token of his “love,” and he was freaking out.
Then he slapped me.
The instant I felt his hand on my cheek, I was up, attacking. I was hitting him for hitting me. I was hitting him for loving me. I was hitting him for not believing me.
When I visualize this now, it almost puts a smile on my face. How funny we must have looked—two bitches trying to hurt each other, both physically and verbally.
The next thing I saw was his face contorting into evil. And then this man, who always claimed to be so chivalrous and took great pride in it, did the unthinkable: He spit in my face.
Now, I never thought human flight was possible. But when I felt his saliva splash on my face, I flew across my bedroom, pounced on him and started swinging—all in 1.2 seconds. I was blinded by fury. I wasn’t aiming my swings. I was just swinging, hoping to make contact with him, hoping to hurt him, wishing I could pound him into nothingness.
At some point during my swinging, I suddenly came to my senses. This was all so stupid. I climbed off him, sat on the edge of the bed, and wept. I cried for what our friendship had turned into. I cried that not loving someone in return could be so ugly. I cried at the mockery of us.
I don’t see him anymore. Well, that’s not true: I see him in my nightmares; nightmares that wake me in the middle of the night with fear and regret.
Then again, this woman never even laid eyes on her new potential boyfriend:
I had been hearing about Joey for nigh on a year from his sister. According to her, we were perfect for each other.
It was Christmastime and I didn’t have any other prospects, so I thought I would impress Joey and lure him to me with the “Secret Santa/12 Days of Christmas” thing where you go to the trouble of assembling a gift for every one of 12 days, then stealthily deposit the gift on their doorstep for them to find and enjoy.
I later heard through Joey’s sister that he was thrilled with the effort and creative lengths I had gone to. I was in! Soon enough, Joey’s sister asked me to Sunday dinner at her house so I could finally meet him.
She answered the door with her usual vigor, “Hi, we’re so glad to see you—come on in!” Then she turned and yelled over her shoulder, “Joey, she’s here.”
What would it be like when we first saw each other? Would I hear music? Would the evening be filled with stimulating conversation and google-eyes?
She explained that Joey was still in his room, getting ready, but would join us shortly and gave me a drink. I could just imagine him getting all polished up for me. She yelled over her shoulder, “Joey, we’re having drinks. I made your favorite.”
We started talking about mutual friends and what we had been doing since our last meeting. Before you know it, half an hour had passed.
“Joey, dinner will be ready soon. We’re having your favorite, Mom’s recipe for lasagna.”
Then, as we moved to the dining room, she noted, “Joey loves our family’s lasagna. He’s a bit shy, but you’re just the girl to bring him out of it. You’re both so smart and cute that you’re perfect for each other.”
“Joey, dinner’s on the table.”
Still not a word from Joey’s room.
“Joey’s watching wrestling; he loves wrestling.” Then she quickly changed the topic and we ate our meal—just the two of us.
“I know,” she exclaimed, eyeballs nearly popping from their sockets, “Let’s put in this video. Joey loves this movie! I know he’ll come out to watch it with us. Joey, we’re watching Return of the Jedi!”
This was one of the oddest and longest nights of my life. I should have excused myself right after dinner, but I must have been in shock. I left that evening having never met Joey, though his sister tried every trick in the book to lure him out, including ice cream sundaes.
After I had some time to look back on this “affair,” I had many questions. Could anyone really be this dysfunctional? What kind of freak was he? What horrors had he endured that created this reclusive wad of flesh? Or was his sister the disturbed one? Did Joey even exist? Had she