As regular readers know, I used to be a pretty heavy cigarette smoker. I quit over five years ago and have never looked back.
I also swore at the time that I would never become a self-righteous ex-smoker, and that I still thought banning smoking in bars was a rotten idea. Now that I don’t smoke, I generally tend to patronize restaurants where smoking is not allowed, or at least where there’s a very well-segregated smoking section. Granted, it’s easier now that most restaurants (even dumpy diners) are smoke-free by choice even here in Cigarette City. And, of course, I pretty much don’t go to bars at all anymore. For years, I’ve been a firm believer that smoking bans in restaurants and bars should be a market-driven decision by the owners of the businesses in question, not a legislative requirement.
Lately, I’ve started to become swayed by the argument that California used ten years ago: that smoking really is a workplace health and safety issue. While customers can choose where to eat, many employees can’t choose where to work, especially in the current economy. Is it right to force these workers to expose themselves to a known toxin just to save smokers the mild inconvenience of having to light up outside? I’m starting to think it’s not. Maybe I’m going soft in my old age.
Invariably, even here in Winston-Salem, smoking sections are increasingly empty. I’m pretty sure that most restaurants, despite what they say publicly, really want a smoking ban. No sane restaurant owner wants to deal with the extra cleaning issues or (more importantly) the reduction in customer turnover that come with smoking. Privately, I’m sure most would support a smoking ban because it would allow them to institute a policy they already want without having to accept the responsibility for doing so.
Even though it’s still tempting because bars are inherently dangerous places to begin with, I guess this means that consistency won’t really allow me to make an exception for them, either.
Please forgive me.