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CURRENT COLUMN   SMOKE 'EM IF YOU GOT 'EM  

ROCKWELL ARCHIVES

 I am not a smoker. Never have been, don't want to be. Even in college, when smokes of "another kind" were available, I not only didn't inhale (as a former President avers), I didn't even light up.

So why do I disagree with New York City and State in their anti-smoking legislation? You'd think I'd be happy to be able to go to smoke-free bars, bistros and bowling alleys (well, maybe not bowling alleys), safe in the knowledge that I and all the folks who work and patronize such establishments won't end up with second-hand-smoke-related illnesses?

Oh, I would be happy to go to those places, but not because Mayor Bloomberg or Governor Pataki or some anti-smoking lobby tells these businesses to bounce the butts. I'm siding for once with those Conservatives who'd rather let the "free market" decide things (gasp! Moi, agreeing with the Right? Must be getting older). One would think that restauranteurs, bar owners, etc., could take the pulse of their patrons and create the ideal combination of smoking/non-smoking areas that would keep the most people happy and as healthy as they wanna be.

The big problem with smoking and "public health" is that for those over 18, SMOKING IS LEGAL. Yes, it's a smelly habit, yes, it's highly addictive (way more than pot, says Garry Trudeau in all of his Doonesbury "Mr. Butts" comic strips), yes, secondhand smoke could be just as bad for you, but it, unlike heroin or prescription drugs, can be bought by any adult at their local 7-11 store and nobody's gonna put you in jail. Instead, they want to put you out in the street, because smoking endangers the health of the working folk indoors.

This, as regards restaurants and bars, is a transparent smokescreen (so to speak). We aren't banning smoking because the anti-smoking forces want you Customers to quit, oh, no; we're doing it for the health of Bartenders and Waiters and Cooks who work in secondhand-smoke land! Disregarding the fact that quite a few of those employees are smokers themselves, the premise that they had no idea that they were working in an unhealthy environment is rather insulting. It's sorta like someone applying to work in a foundry not realizing there were noxious fumes and red-hot metal involved.

California (land of the obvious overstatement) has a law that signs must be put in buildings describing the POSSIBLE health hazards one just might find there. For example, signs in public garages tell you that one will find carbon monoxide and petroleum products there; of course, you'd have to be licking an oil puddle or power-toking a tailpipe to bring on any adverse effects (Hmmm… when will we not be able to park our gas-guzzlers inside because it endangers the health of Garage Workers?).

Another argument goes that alcohol is legal to over-21s, but we regulate where it can be bought and consumed. Many states won't let you drink on the public streets, and there are still "dry counties" that don't sell booze. People die of alcohol abuse every day, and I guess folks maimed and killed by belligerent drunks and drunk drivers could be called "secondhand drink" victims. But you can still drink in all the places that you now cannot smoke in, places that traditionally have a lot of customers who want to do both.

Big-city establishments are slowly attempting to come back after the initial drop-off of patrons. Manhattan bars and clubs will survive because there isn't any real alternative for the party crowd. In the inevitable "let's exchange a headache for an upset stomach," streets outside NYC establishments are now crowded with noisy smokers who litter the sidewalks with butts. What I haven't heard much about is how small-town bars and eateries are faring. In all my life I have NEVER set foot in a rural bar with a No Smoking section, or at least one big enough to count for much. I wonder if the local police out in West Armpit are enforcing the state nonsmoking laws as strictly as the NYPD is. Talk is going around about illegal "smokeeasies" popping up; certainly the enrollment in private clubs and groups like the American Legion will rise.

This "ban-the-butts" legislation is spreading. Amazingly, Ireland is going to ban tobacco from their bars and restaurants! I'll know the Apocalypse has come when France does the same…

The paradox is, we all know that cigarettes kill, but we also know that as long as Virginia, North Carolina and other tobacco-growing states base their economies on the killer weed, it'll never be illegal. Why not follow the example of the Amsterdam "coffee shops," where consuming pot and hash is condoned, and have certain licensed "smoking bars" set up throughout the city? Put a big lit-cigarette sign outside or something (as long as you don't copy the Dutch retro-'60s style and Bob Marley music of their coffee shops!), so non-smokers know the score. If they complain, tough. Stand outside between beers, like the smokers do now.

The Ad Remains The Same

Smoke Screen
Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that cigarette

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Who's this
"Uncle Johnny guy?

Uncle Johnny's Corner features occasonal random thoughts (approximately whenever the spirit moves Uncle Johnny to write omething new)

Uncle Johnny's "day job" is as an audio engineer and producer/writer. He lives and works in New York City.

John and David used to be partners in a syndicated radio production firm.
They remain close friends.