Jim Leach has a good roundup of last night’s Springfield smoking ban hearing. He also makes a number of excellent points in favor of the ban. I would like to follow up with a few comments of my own on the issue.
When approaching this subject you have to remember smoking is not new and the proposed ban is not happening in a vacuum. Smoking in many public places is, and has been, the norm. As such, it is hard for non-smoking to make inroads. There is a certain inertial that has to be fought to get smoke-free environments. What the bans do is hit the reset button. Or at least that’s how I would like to see it used. Let’s clean the slate, let the smoke-free establishments become the norm. From there, perhaps years down the road, maybe we can consider some limited number of smoking establishments. Maybe the city could issue special licenses to Cigar Bars much as they grant 3:00 AM liquor licenses. Perhaps there could be other exceptions as well. But that’s just the point; we need them to be the exception not the rule. Right now, the equation is reversed.
Smoking (in public places) advocates might argue that voluntary smoking restrictions have worked in retail settings. Even though I lived through it, I’m not sure how it really came about. I do remember working at a bookstore in the newly opened White Oaks Mall my senior year in high school (1977-1978) and every night sweeping the dust and trash off the floors including dozens of cigarette butts. Back then, it was normal for people to walk around stores smoking. Somehow retailers were able to break the public of this habit by initially posting No Smoking signs which were later removed as people understood you just don’t smoke in stores. But restaurants and particularly bars show no sign of doing this other than setting up very ineffective non-smoking areas. While the non-smoking sections began to pop up about the same time as the decline in smoking in retail stores, there has been almost no progress since then. They need a little (OK, a lot) of encouragement.
I find it incredible today that people in the recent past, my past, did smoke in clothing stores, hair salons -barber and beauty shops as they were called back in the day, airplanes, buses, offices, food stores, etc. 20 years from now, as smoking bans continue to come into effect everywhere, it will seem particularly strange that there was ever smoking allowed in restaurants.
And one final point. Those who deny there is any long term health risk to inhaling second-hand smoke probably aren’t going to be dissuaded from that position because it is hard to demonstrate. But let’s assume for a minute that there are NO long-term health effects associated second hand smoking. There are, undeniably, short term effects: nasal irritation, lung irritation, eye irritation (I’m particularly sensitive to this), and your hair and clothes stink to high heaven. I can’t think of any other activity that has these kinds of short term effects on others that is considered socially acceptable.