To Smoke or Not to SmokeFebruary 20th, 2009 at 5:42 pm by Eric Harryman under Health, Personalities, Politics
24 hours ago, (February 19th) the Virginia House of Delegates passed a ‘Partial Smoking Ban’ for restaurants and bars. It should come as no surprise the decision comes along with major controversy.
Long story short, it will require any establishment wanting to allow smoking indoors to have a separate room, with a separate ventilation system for smokers. The passage of bill certainly was not quick, in fact, it has been thrown around by lawmakers for years, never making it very far. I spent a good portion of the day yesterday talking to business owners and restaurant owners in the downtown Norfolk area about how they felt. I found “a few” bars that claim they would be hit hard financially, but the overwhelming majority of business owners and patrons I talked with were elated by the idea.
Smokers told me it was an invasion of their freedom as an American, non-smokers feel like it’s an invasion of their freedom to have to breathe 2nd hand smoke. And then there is this: Virginia IS a tobacco state. For the last 400 years tobacco has been a cash crop and many feel the passage of this bill is ironic. This is what one non-smoker had to say:”I’m not a smoker, nor have I ever been, but I’m also against anti-smoking laws. I can see the government banning smoking in public buildings, but private owners should be able to set their own rules and employees and patrons can choose to spend their time elsewhere if the rules bother them.” And the debate will continue.
It reminds me of California’s “Helmet Law”, requiring motorcycle riders to wear a helmet when they ride or face still penalties. Critics argued it’s a personal choice and not something that should be forced on anyone and when you think about it, why shouldn’t we allow someone to risk their own life, if it’s not a risk to anyone else? Although a ‘partial smoking ban’ is very different in nature, each individual still has the option to NOT patronize an establishment that allows smoking. So, at what point do state lawmakers have too much pull? Here in the newsroom, it surprised us when we found out the bill passed for that very reason. I’m not a smoker and I’m glad to know I won’t be forced to breathe someone else smoke, but I can also understand the larger issue of personal freedoms.
Not long ago, the state of New York adopted a similar ‘partial smoking ban’ and the overwhelming majority of responses I found on the web were positive about the change. However, the following is a quote from a New York City “pro-smoking” website. Although it may seem a little far fetched, there is a point here. It began by saying the state of New York has added $1.25 to each pack of cigarettes and at years end, that tax will net the state more than a billion dollars. It reads …
“One billion dollars!!!!!
And people sue the tobacco companies?
Maybe they should sue the state. The state makes more money per pack than do the tobacco companies.
Cigarette taxes have nothing to do with health and everything to do with $$$$$$$$$$$$$$.”
Clearly the state of Virginia is very different and has a very different plan focus for the ‘partial smoking ban’ and cigarette tax, but the basic question of ‘government control’ still holds true. Let me know what you think.