Seattle or Singapore?

Jeez, Seattle, what's next? Public caning for jaywalking? Jail terms for spitting on the sidewalk?

I'm referring to the smoking ban we just passed in the Nov. 8 election. I think it goes a tad overboard, and I assume we're going to see a few court challenges before the smoke has cleared.

Look, I'm a non-smoker. OK, not entirely - I enjoy the occasional cigar after a special dinner. But I quit smoking cigarettes in 1981, and I'm very glad I did. I have no problem with the American Cancer Society's desire to have everyone quit smoking.

But to run people outside into the rain and cold - and even more, to tell them to go 25 feet from the door or a vent - is almost a Gestapo-like approach. Move 25 feet from a door, and you're probably standing by the next door, or near someone else's vent. It gets a little silly.

I don't appreciate smoke in my face when I'm eating dinner, so I have no problem with stringent laws requiring that smokers and non-smokers be separated by an effective barrier, and that adequate ventilation systems be installed to ensure that I don't have to suffer the secondhand smoke of those who still enjoy putting burning weeds in their mouth.

I know that restaurateurs would gripe about the cost to modify their establishments, but they'll pass that cost on to the customers, smokers and non-smokers alike. (By the way, another wall to separate the fruitcakes who believe they can smell smoke just because they can see a cigarette through a window wouldn't be a bad idea either.)

I still remember the enjoyment I used to get from smoking, and the discomfort I felt as the anti-smoking movement gained momentum in the 1970s. At Boeing, where I worked, I began to get looks as I'd light up, and people would make a point of coughing loudly when I, or one of my friends, lit up a fag (remember when that only meant a cigarette?). I felt harassed by my coworkers, although it was usually done with humor. This was all before Boeing became a non-smoking company.

There was even one time we were outside at an event, and a woman who joined our picnic table after we had eaten and were having a cigarette asked us not to smoke. I believe I suggested that the young lady perform an anatomically impossible act.

This is all a way of saying that smoking (and tobacco) is still legal, and until such time as it becomes illegal, I think relegating smokers to some back alley to stand in the rain for a cigarette is, well, draconian to say the least. I'd love to see everyone quit, but until then, I think the non-smokers are running roughshod over those who still light up. So lighten up.

I mentioned the occasional cigar. There are places like El Gaucho that have set aside a separate room with excellent ventilation for cigar and cigarette smokers. I'm guessing that the majority of non-smokers who've eaten there had no idea the room even exists. A law that requires that degree of separation, and ensures clean air for those who don't smoke, is absolutely the right thing to do.

Treating smokers like pariahs is not the right thing to do. They are engaging in a perfectly legal activity, albeit an unhealthy one, and the rest of us really have no right to ostracize them for their conduct. We do have the right to demand they not force their smoke on us, but surely there are better ways to do that than the law we just passed.

Here's hoping the El Gauchos and the cigar bars and establishments whose customers smoke mount some serious court challenges to the constitutionality of this initiative.

Mike Davis lives in Magnolia.

[[In-content Ad]]