Today's Post had an interesting article on life after the smoking ban (click on my post title to read it). For those of you who aren't in the area, as of January 2nd you can no longer smoke in D.C.'s bars. I'm a nonsmoker, and always have been. Tobacco just sort of skeeves me out. I tried hookah once and was sick for three days.
However, I opposed the smoking ban. It's a bar, not a church or a maternity ward. It's not like anyone goes to their local pub for healthy, virtuous reasons. We go to drink beer, send ill-advised text messages and flirt with people our parents would never approve of. Also, the clouds of smoke obscured all the indigenous bar stink. You know, the stale beer, cheap cologne, dead animals in the walls, gin-soaked unwashed patrons, and greasy food smells that used to be camouflaged by the smoke. I can now smell every individual funky aroma, and it's overwhelming.
As a nonsmoker, the only real drawback to the ban is that I now have to wade through a sidewalk scrum of tipsy, nicotine-starved smokers to get to the door. On more than one occasion, I've narrowly avoided having someone smash their lit cigarette into my shoulder. Back in the old days, the smokers were spread out throughout the bar and it was easier to dodge them. (I have a side question for my smoking readers: after a few drinks, most people notice a decline in their motor skills. I imagine it's tricky to hold a lit object when thus compromised. So, how do you avoid setting your neighbor's hair on fire? I was always impressed by this.)
The best part of the article was the last woman they interviewed. What a hoot. She was a teacher and soccer coach from Fairfax (so, my polar opposite). She claimed that if someone is smoking at the next table, "I will move, and I will vocally move. I will let these people know I am moving because of them. I just feel very passionately about not being a victim of someone else's choice." Wow. Remind me to toss back a couple of beers with her sometime! She sounds fun. Actually, she sounds like a bit of a pill.
I don't think anyone in the history of the universe has quit smoking because a stranger in a bar clucked at them. I have a mom, thanks, and I don't need anyone to tell me what to do.
The Fairfax woman is a symbol of what's wrong with the smoking ban. I don't consider smokers any sort of protected minority (ultimately, it's a choice, and it's not like anyone chooses to be born black or gay or disabled or whatever). So I get a little weary of smokers who complain that they're being persecuted. But I also think it's ridiculous to mommy the hell out of people. Bars are supposed to be gross and smoky. Telling people not to smoke in a bar is like going to a strip club and asking the ladies to cover up a little.
Part of living in society is dealing with the fact that not everyone is going to do what you want them to do. If you are in an environment that is associated with smoking, or any other behavior you find unsavory, you need to either find a way to deal, or you need to go somewhere else. It really is that simple. As a rule, I don't believe in legislating virtue.
Doesn't D.C. have anything better to do?