Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette,
Puff, puff, puff it and you'll puff yourself to death
Tell St. Peter at the pearly gate
You just hate to make him wait
You just gotta have a-nother cigarette!
--Tex Williams (1947) [Thank you Jerry Clark, the little voice inside my head reminding me how dumb I am]
If you spend any time in bars and clubs--and most of you don't, no matter what you're telling the girl in sales on Monday morning--you know that the proposed smoking bans are weighing heavily on the minds of a few...mostly people who smoke. "Well, no shit Sherlock," you say.
Growing up in Kansas City, I was always in the presence of a smoldering Winston, my old man dragging on stick after stick, in between meals and sips of strong coffee brewed by his Texan wife, the apple of my eye, Marnell. Like measles and small pox, I received my nicotine innoculation early in life, so my own feelings on the topic have always been tempered by a tolerance borne of familiarity.
But what of the bars and clubs? I don't smoke myself, so I'm not going to lie to you, I wouldn't miss it too much. On a physical level, I don't need cigarettes, and it's just more laundry when you feel like you have to put on a clean shirt for bed on a cold night after beating the cops home from some joint filled with clouds of tar. Honestly, there are only a few people who'll tell you that they prefer the smell and residual effects of cigarette smoking in the bars. There's the whole physical addiction part, and there's the "I only smoke when I drink" crowd, and that's pretty much the long and short of why people do it.
"If they're going to ban it, it should be statewide," says Big Frank Szewc of Grumpy's Nordeast. The obvious reasoning behind that is, if it's just Minneapolis and/or St. Paul, then smokers will find first ring bars that allow it, to spend their kids' lunch money on booze. "Also, it creates more work for the bartenders," continues Big Frank. Say a smoker decides to go to a Minneapolis bar regardless of the ban...say 20 smokers show up...they all have to step outside every time they want a grit. Now, the staff has to keep an eye out for what's going on outside. They have to police whether they're trying to sneak their drinks out there; they have to police the noise levels. In other words, banning smoking in bars has the potential of creating two "rooms" at every bar, where only one existed previously.
But let's just wad those arguments up like paper and toss them in the trash for a moment. On a purely statistical level, the STATES that have banned smoking have found there's economic benefit, not harm to it. So, for the sake of ranting, let's accept that banning smoking on a statewide level is a good thing economically.
A feverish mind is always suspicious of people telling it what it can't do. What is the greater, more nefarious or benevolent thing going on here? As good ol' Harry Truman once quipped, "how long do you have to let something hit you in the head before you stand up and ask what's hitting me in the goddamned head?"
Who are the players in a smoking ban? Well, Player One is Tobacco. Injured and on the run, Tobacco has been marshalled into a corner in a country founded upon it. Player Two is a cloudy devil's pact between health insures and state governments, wherein they've joined their clawed hands and cloven hooves because of long term health cost liability due to constant smoke exposure. Player Three is Booze. Booze gets theirs no matter who wins, but booze is still stirring the pot. And lurking not so far underneath is Player Four, the pharmaceutical companies. Studies have shown that reduced access to areas where smoking is okay causes people to attempt to stop smoking...well, they gotta do something if they don't smoke all of the sudden, and gobbling handfuls of prescription mood enhancers and addiction copers seems like a great start.
Seeing as how all four players have a lot of loose money lying around, it's no secret that influence can be won in the halls of government with a check or two. So don't believe for a minute that your elected leaders give a shit about your health. Elections happen in November, and there hasn't been a "free" one for centuries.
But, let's even ignore for a moment that your elected leaders are pushing this hot button issue during an election year when all of them have failed to create jobs, deliver affordable healthcare and education, and bring world peace. Examine the mechanics of the law...
If passed, the government, under the rubric of "public health" is saying yet another thing can't be done in public areas. I've found myself arguing most about this point with friends, foes, and drunks propped up against the bar. Your government is exercising some pretty vague power as a steward of the public health to clamp down on something that many people do out of choice; it's not like sewage leaks, or even lead in the drinking water. Folks are knowingly puffing on rockets at their local watering holes.
The BAD analogy is, "what's next? Big Macs are bad for me, can they outlaw those too?" The proper response to that is that your Big Mac doesn't immediately and directly affect those around you. The GOOD analogy is sex. If I decide to take a woman home from the bar and we soil each other all night long without protection, we are immediately and directly inserting ourselves into a chain of possible STD transmission, assuming I forget both her name and number the minute I walk out the door. The government has an equally compelling interest in curtailing that kind of behavior, and don't laugh at me when I tell you that it's next.
Finally, we can never ignore the greatest argument of them all...WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!?!?!?!? If the government has a compelling interest in protecting anything in this country, it needs to protect the fucking children. Children should never see porn, hear cuss words, eat fatty foods, breathe dirty air, drink rusty water, swallow lead paint, or fall down and get a boo boo on their knees. If the government can say people can't smoke in bars where people have willingly exposed themselves to booze, smoke, manic-depressive alcoholics, me, and Big Frank, then they can most certainly say that you really ought not smoke at home around your kids...THEIR kids...THE STATE'S kids...there's a compelling interest in not leaving one child behind, no matter the issue.
There's a good chance that a lot of this is gibberish, but you only have to sit through one, two, or 236 classes during 3 years of law school to see the natural progression of things when it comes to the "state's compelling interests." I really don't care whether folks smoke. They're making the terrible choice to kill themselves, and, over time, a bit of money comes out of my pocket to deal with the issue, and I'm not so hip on that. But I'm pretty dead set against the jackoffs who pass for our elected leaders telling me or anybody else what we can and can't do based on the nebulous concept of "the public good." Whether you're 73, 83, or 93, you're going to die. It's inevitable. So fuck you. On behalf of the hacking, coughing, and wheezing oppressed, I vote NO on the smoking ban.