While my associate the Casual Restaurant Critic writes sanguinely about the no-smoking rules in restaurants, I would like to take a sharper look at what I consider an invasion of privacy and an intrusion by government in the affairs of ordinary citizens.
While government is supposed to be charged with maintaining some sort of level playing field when it comes to regulating the activities of its citizens, this rather lofty ideal has come crashing down over the decades, or maybe it hasn't - it's just become more obvious and less secretive.
To maintain some semblance of authority (we are here to help the people!) government officials like to take on simple, easy to do projects like this no smoking thing. There are enough people whining and moaning that cigarettes kill, so we should be able to pass this quickly and everyone will see how hard we work for the subjects we mean populace. It's the government policy version of Hamburger Helper.
While I have no doubt that smoking is a health problem I nevertheless enjoy my cigarettes, especially the one right after a meal or in a bar. I can however, go for extended periods of time without lighting up so I not one of those militant smokers. My problem is with government legislating what you can or cannot do in a privately owned restaurant. Public spaces, yes, by all means, legislate away for the good of everyone since everyone needs to be in these public areas and smokers shouldn't be allowed to contaminate the lungs of those who choose not to smoke, in those areas. But restaurants, no.
Non-smokers will whine about how they can't go to Trotters without having to put up with smoke from some nearby inconsiderate jerk who is smoking. Or how they can't enjoy their coffee at Segafredo without suffering the exhalations of some smoker at the next table. I have two words for those people - don't go.
It is not your god-given right to go to any restaurant. There is no clause in the constitution of this or any other country that indicates such a right. This is not a public space. This is a private space and the owner of the establishment should be able to make the decision as to whether or not he or she wants to allow smoking in his or her place of business. If you feel you can't go to 'x' restaurant because they allow smoking there, so what. Don't go. It is not, I repeat, your god-given right or constitutional obligation to eat at that restaurant.
Will a restaurant's business suffer because the owner allows smoking? So be it. The owner can then decide to create either a no smoking area or prohibit smoking altogether if he or she decides that it will be good for business. Maybe the move to non-smoking will be a good idea, maybe it won't. It should be up to the owner.
But I want to eat there, the steaks are so good, whines the militant non-smoker. Tough. Open your own steak restaurant or go someplace else. This is a privately owned business. Get it?
What about employees? This is another selling point for the non-smoking militant. I don't think that Mr. Trotter for example, goes to his employees homes and points a gun at them and forces them to come to work. If you can't stand smoke, go work someplace else. Simple.
But then, no one will work in the restaurants and bars where smoking is permitted, some might argue. Again, tough. Tough for the owner. If there are no employees willing to work in a smoky environment, it's up to the business owner to make changes, not the government. The business owner must decide how to make his workplace safer and/or the job more attractive to make up for the hassle of the employee possibly getting sick from cigarrette smoke. Better wages, a better health plan and a good smoke extraction/air purification system will make the job attractive to potential employees. Have you ever been to Vegas? Are the croupiers complaining about the heavy smoking that goes on at the roulette tables and casinos in general? Probably. But if you don't like it, you could go work at McDonalds or Walmart. No one is forcing you to work there. They must be doing something at those casinos that make people want to work in them.
Restaurants are not public places. How many times to I have to repeat this?
My position is admittedly anti-government in the sense that they have no business in anyone's business. Or personal life for that matter.
Malls, at least in Merida for the time being, are still smoking friendly. A mall, in spite of being privately owned as well, can be arguably classified as public spaces. You could make an almost convincing argument that you have to go to the mall to get whatever it is you want to get. I wouldn't be convinced, but you could make it. Yet, one can still smoke in the mall. Not in the restaurant, but in the mall. Go figure.