A couple of years ago, it was one of my dreams that one day, someday, in the distant future there would be no smoking allowed in restaurants. I was hoping before I reached old age (no jokes please) I would be able to walk into a restaurant and enjoy a meal without the foul-smelling and carcinogenic smoke from cigarettes wafting over to my table. So I’ve been more than delighted to see the smoking ban movement, er, catch fire here in Illinois and specifically in Springfield.
And that was my starting point: no smoking in restaurants. When the ban was approved here in the city and included bars, I was fine with that too but it was never a top priority of mine to include bars. There seems to be some push-bask now on the ban but it seems almost entirely limited to smoking in drinking establishments. Restaurants aren’t even being discussed. The game has advanced down field. Good news.
However, I still think it’s best the ban still include the bars. To the extent there is a problem, I think it stems from the uneven playing field. We are never going to wring the culturally accepted notion that you can smoke in bars out of the public consciousness until it isn’t allowed anywhere in the state. Once that happens it’s just a matter of time before it becomes an accepted practice and there will no longer be any controversy.
Right now though, we have a divisive situation. Smoking has traditionally been a staple of the tavern experience and some are reluctant to give that up. By having establishments down the road in another community without a ban, the tradition lives on and provides haven for those unwilling to give up on subjecting others to their smoke. A larger scale ban takes care of that.
Here’s my take on what should happen. Either the state implements a statewide ban or the local bans exclude places that are primarily engaged in serving liquor. I know that seems like I’m ceding ground but I’m convinced it’s the only fair thing to do at this point. Until there is a level playing field, new restrictions will not change the behavior of those who think it’s their “right” to smoke to other’s detriment.