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Monday, February 2, 2009

My position on smoking in St. Louis City

Reading the enormously long list of comments over at Urban Review regarding a potential public smoking ban in the City, I was inspired to sound off.

There are many on the pro-smoking side of the issue that claim that the health risks associated with secondhand smoke are overblown (no pun intended).

I say: who cares?

Surely, the basis of any legislation banning smoking in the City would be precisely that angle: public health. But is it not true that, say, if I made so much as a threatening gesture at you, that could be classified as battery? Anything we do that affects another deserves consideration--and yes, perhaps regulation.

Whether or not I'm going to develop cancer from a brief exposure to secondhand smoke should be immaterial. Personally speaking, I went to smoke-ridden places in St. Louis all the time when I lived there, and still do when I return. There are a lot of good times to be had at places that are very smoke-friendly and ill-ventilated. The point is that I, and many others, suffer from an inability to breathe, dine, or simply relax around cigarette smoke. Just after it was reported that St. Louis is the worst place for the asthma-afflicted (yours truly being among those ranks), pro-smoking folks should realize that it's sometimes less about the chronic effects of secondhand smoke than the immediate--an inability to breathe.

Again, within the Urban Review comments on the particular topic, I hear a resounding response to this latter point: go somewhere else. Another more compelling point is that a local business owner should have the right to dictate what goes on in his or her own building. Of course, the former argument could be invalidated on the sheer arrogance of it. It's sort of a stretch, but telling a nonsmoking asthmatic who suffers because of others' smoking but wants to actually enjoy his/her city's nightlife just to go somewhere where smoking is prohibited is sort of like telling a wheelchair-bound individual to just go where the ramps are. Perhaps the real issue is what class of people should be protected--those who have taken up a habit that affects others nearby or those who suffer from these persons' habits.

Besides, there is simply a rational viewpoint in this matter, in my opinion. Smoking should never be allowed around food, at the very least. And what is so wrong with having to step outside to smoke a cigarette?

Here in New Orleans--of all places--a public smoking ban was passed on the grounds of public health. However, it only affects establishments that derive at least 60 percent of their sales income from food--therefore, smoking in bars is still allowed. Many St. Louis restaurants are already smoke-free or smoke-segregated, so this is not a huge issue.

My take on this argument is that smoking could be considered a form of battery. I am not interested in the mutual accusations of conspiracy theories among pro-smoking and anti-smoking interest groups. I'm interested in being able to go out and breathe simultaneously!

All that said, a smoking ban would be ineffectual if not statewide. Even a City-County ban might simply encourage "tavern sprawl", where patrons retreat to Jefferson and St. Charles Counties for their smoke-and-drink combo. With public smoking nixed on both sides of the Mississippi River, unhappy smokers will likely get used to the days of taking their cigs outside and reminiscing about the good old days when smokers were free.

Am I wrong?


Chris said...

Don't worry about tavern sprawl; Washington DC's ban (where I lived) did not cause wild and exciting nightlife to spring up in Virginia. Virginia remained as much of a nightlife dead zone even though they had smoking. Simply put, very few people smoke any more, and smoking bans end social smoking. Only the diehards, who have to smoke, go outside.

Matt M. said...

I mentioned tavern sprawl somewhat in jest. However, I don't know if there are very few people who smoke anymore. Is the younger generation smoking pronouncedly less often and in less quantity?

Bill Hannegan said...

You missed my comments. Air filtration is already making nearly everyone, both smokers and nonsmokers, happy at St. Louis venues like the Country Club and Herbie's Vintage 72.

Ending social smoking is what these bans are really about.

miguelito said...

Some of us were given strong lungs, others--like you--were not. It's the survival of the fittest. If you can't handle the current environment, then die already.

Steve Patterson said...

Filtration doesn't cut it for me. Yet another costly means of accommodating smokers.

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