Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Put That Thing Out!

In my ideal world, every bar and restaurant would be completely smoke free. This would not be the result of legislation; people would choose not to smoke indoors, and pretty much everywhere else for that matter. Legislation, however, has been bringing us closer to that ideal in many areas. California is the most notable example of a state with smoking restrictions; many others have followed suit. One place that has not is our beloved Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Visitors from states with smoke-free regulations are shocked and appalled -- or, in some cases, thrilled and delighted -- that the bars in PA are filled with clouds of thick cigarette smoke. For those folks, it is nothing like home.

That may change in the not too distant future. An article in today's Trib takes a look at the future of anti-smoking legislation in PA and its effect on businesses around the Pittsburgh area. Plenty of people, both pro and con, are quoted in the article. One opponent of smoking bans had this to say:

Bernard L. Pucka, executive director of the Allegheny County Tavern Association, believes a law banning smoking would hurt business.
"One of the things these people have to realize is that a tavern isn't a church," Pucka said. "People go out there to have fun, to relax, to let loose. I guess smoking isn't a good thing, but there are still an awful lot of people in this country who smoke. It wouldn't be right to take it away from them."

When someone says that some establishment "isn't a church", they are one step away from calling it a whorehouse. More to the point, it makes a church sound like the only haven for nonsmokers. If that were the case, I would live in a church. Then there is the matter of going to a bar "to have fun, to relax, to let loose". I suppose that this is one of those areas where I, as someone who has never smoked anything in my entire life, have a hard time understanding the correlation between having fun, relaxation, letting loose, and smoking. A few close family members of mine -- now dead, of course -- smoked for many years. It seemed as though smoking increased their anxiety levels and made them angrier and more prone to frustration. They certainly didn't seem like they were having fun or relaxing. Flatulence, on the other hand, is relaxing. How would these smokers feel if someone else's flatulence wafted up their noses the way that their smoke drifts towards other people's nostrils?

And anyway, if I go to a bar, the alcohol that I consume does plenty to relax me, thank you very much.

The rest of Mr. Pucka's comments above sounds more like a wishy-washy, man-in-the-street comment than a strongly held opinion from someone representing the interests of local businesses. But he then goes on to say:
"Most people are courteous. They won't fire up and annoy other people with a cigarette," Pucka said.
On what planet? Is this guy a smoker? If not, has he ever been to a restaurant? Not only are most smoking sections not insulated from the no smoking areas, but a lot of people actually walk through the no smoking section with lit cigarettes on their way to and from the smoking sections. Courteous? In a pig's eye. They don't care who they annoy when they smoke.

But do we really need legislation to drive smokers into their homes to practice the habit? Like I said above, in ideal world, they would do it voluntarily. But if anti-smoking sentiment continues to grow, politicians in Harrisburg are going to seriously consider a California-style ban. Meanwhile, I am staying away from most places that allow smoking, and patronize eateries that are smoke free...like Hoss's. Mmmmm....steak.

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