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Stogie News: Illinois Smoke-Free, Virginia Next?

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.

No SmokingAs 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.

So I’d like to leave you today with some well-written words from a recent Washington Post op-ed, authored by two employees of the Cato Institute (one of which is a friend of

“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?”

Patrick A

photo credit: Flickr

5 Responses to “Stogie News: Illinois Smoke-Free, Virginia Next?”

  1. Scott Monday, January 28, 2008 at 3:14 am #

    The shame of this is that since smoking was banned in DC, I spend more time – and more money – in Virginia. When I was chased out of the District Chophouse and Nathan's…I took my cigars and my business to Carpool and Talulla.

    I say to Tim Kaine – and to anyone on the other side of the river – this is not Jefferson's Virginia. To this point Virginia had a sensible solution – let the individual business owner decide which customer base they wanted to cater to. But politicians like Kaine and the DC city council would rather tackle issues that are popular, rather than necessary.

    So that means to DC our bars are safe from second hand smoke…and our streets aren't safe from second hand bullets. In Virginia, it'll be just as hard to smoke a cigar in a bar as it is to take a train to Dulles.

  2. Desmond Monday, January 28, 2008 at 4:14 am #

    Didn't Virginia already try to pass a statewide smoking ban and fail?

  3. Patrick A Monday, January 28, 2008 at 4:38 am #

    That's right. Around this time last year we wrote an analysis of the proposed ban, but thankfully it ultimately failed. This time, though, Virginia has more Democrats in the state legislature.

  4. Allan Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 11:04 pm #

    Yeah, there have been two attempts already to pass a statewide ban in VA(2006, and last year). Both bans failed in the Va. Legislature, after passing in the Va. Senate.

    Hopefully, the Va. Legislature will again thwart Kaine's newest attempt to ban smoking. Sure hope too that the local ordinances that some cities/towns have tried to pass will be overturned by state courts, due to the fact that state law(and Dillon's Rule) prohibits local communities from passing bans, unless the power is explicitly given by Virginia government.

    And I know really well about both IL and VA, since my mom's family is from Virginia, and I'm personally from Chicago. Most bars I've seen in Chicago than not have had a decline in customers, based on my observations, and from talking to bar employees/owners.

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