28 Jan 2008
CHICAGO — I’m writing to you from my most recent hometown trip and, let me tell you, Chicago is a different place. Well, at least the bar scene is, and – for better or worse – that’s where I spend most of my time catching up with Windy City friends.
The big difference is that ever since January 1, Illinois has been under the same nasty spell that has befallen countless other cities and states: a government- imposed smoking ban. The intrusive statewide law criminalizes consenting adults who choose to smoke and the entrepreneurial business owners who choose to accommodate them.
As a cigar enthusiast, the ban doesn’t severely inconvenience me, aside from the fact that Cigar Aficionado recently had to cancel its 14th annual Big Smoke Chicago event. Most bars and restaurants didn’t allow cigars before the ban (private policies I have always abided by), and I’ve never been a cigarette smoker.
But many of my friends are, and it was odd to see them occasionally excuse themselves into the evening chill of Wrigelyville for a nicotine fix. Maybe they were engaging in “smirking,” a new flirting technique whereby patrons who are forced outside to smoke have approximately three minutes to score a co-ed’s number.
Still, even though the law is just a mild nuisance for me, it is no doubt part of a troubling trend that should worry all Americans who value personal freedoms and individual rights. That’s half of the reason why I will return to my current residence in Virginia with a heavy heart.
The other half? Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine last week announced that he will be backing a “statewide ban on smoking in all restaurants, bars, and public and private clubs.” Ugh.
“Restaurant and bar owners want to make money, and they do so by catering to different market niches. In Northern Virginia, many restaurants and bars advertise that they are smoke-free, while others cater to a smoking crowd. This offering of many different choices is a virtue of open markets. So why would Kaine override the smoking choices of different people and instead impose his preference on all Virginians?”
photo credit: Flickr