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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Jumping on the smoking ban wagon

Warning: The surgeon general says this column may be hazardous to smokers.

I’m not a smoker, never have been, never will. I know few people who do smoke. Yet why is it taking so long for Pennsylvania to enact a smoking ban in public places?

Before any smokers out there get their panties in a bunch, you have the right to smoke ... and I and my nonsmoking brethren also have the right not to be bothered by it.

The issue isn’t about your right to smoke. The issue is the health and well-being of those around you and the nonsmoking employees who work in such places day after day.

I hate walking into a restaurant knowing that as soon as the doors open, the odor of smoke will come wafting toward me and cling to my clothes the waytrouble clings to Britney Spears.

At some places I like to dine, the nonsmoking section isbeyond the smoking section, so diners who don’t light up have to walk through a cloud of smoke to get to their table and to leave the restaurant.

On a recent Friday morning, my wife and I went to breakfast at one of our favorite restaurants. When you walk in, the non-smoking section is on the left, and the smokers sit on the right.

The non-smoking side was nearly full and we got one of the few remaining tables. As I looked to the smoking side of the restaurant, I counted about 12 emptytables/booths.

We were only in the diner about 30 minutes. Yet when we returned home, our clothes reeked of cigarettes and we had to change. I’m sure the other people in the non-smoking section went home and did the same thing.

All so a few people can enjoy a cigarette while they dine.So despite the quality of its meals, I refuse to eat at that restaurant until it bans smoking.

As my wife tells me, it’s almost as if nonsmokers are being segregated because WE have the obnoxious habit.

It really should be so simple, passing a law that benefits the health of everyone in the commonwealth. But that would mean our state lawmakers would have to do something for its citizens, rather than lobbyists. And we know how rare an occurrence that is.

In 2007, the dysfunctionalPhiladelphia City Council passed a citywide smoking ban in almost all of its workplaces, including in all restaurants and any bars which do not receive at least 90% of their gross revenues from alcohol sales. It’s the only smoking ban currently in effect in Pennsylvania.

So I guess it’s time for the restaurant owners to take matters into their own hands. Some have.A sign outside of Angelo’s Family Diner on Route 100 in Bechtelsville states that theeatery, which has just been remodeled, is now smoke-free.

Also smoke-free, and under new ownership, is the Five-Star Diner and Restaurant on Armand Hammer Boulevard in Lower Pottsgrove.

In Lititz, Lancaster County, The General Sutter Inn went completely smoke free on Jan. 1. Smoking had been allowed in the bar, but not anymore.According to the Associated Press, the inn’s owner said a number of factors went intomaking the decision, including the comfort of employees and the possiblity of a state-wide smoking ban. The Pennsylvania Restaurant Association has come out in support of a statewide smoking ban, claiming it would protect workers from secondhand smoke.

New York City banned smoking in all restaurants, food-service establishments and bars in 2003, and that city doesn’t seem to be suffering.

It’s not just in restaurants, either. A few weeks ago, my 14-year-old stepdaughter went bowling with a few friends. When I picked her up 2 hours later, the nasty smell of smoke just overwhelmed my car. She is still complaining about it.

My mother-in-law is a chronic smoker. She lives in Delaware, a state that banned smoking in all public buildings — including workplaces, bars, restaurants and casinos — in November 2002. When we visit and go out for dinner, she has no problem forgoing a cigarette while we dine.

So why can’t the rest of you, and why can’t the state get this passed? It’s for the good of everyone.

For a list of smoking bans throughout the country, visit

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with the article. I recently was at dinner at a Pottstown diner and was in the none smoking section, while the smoking section was literally less than 3 feet from me, seperated by a half wall. So as I dined on one side of the wall, a group of smokers puffed away on the other side, filling my space with not just the smells of smoking, but the actual smoke itself from their cigarettes which blew in my face. This is hardly a seperation. If resturants want to continue allowing smoking, it needs to be done so in a completely seperated room from the non smoking area, with no access from one to the other. I find it very hard to accept that anyone needs to smoke during a meal anyway. For the most part a smoker wont smoke in their own home, but has no problem doing so in a public resturant. Is it really that critical to be smoking while your eating? Can these people not wait the hour to have one in the parking lot on the way to their cars?