Are you tired of smelling cigarette smoke in restaurants?

Published 3:30 pm Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Are you as tired as I am of smelling cigarette smoke when you sit down to eat in a restaurant?

If you are, head to Louisiana. Once again we are dragging along at the rear because now even Louisiana has banned smoking in restaurants. Of course, with a governor who once lobbied for cigarette companies, it is unlikely that Mississippi will ban smoking in restaurants anytime soon.

We in this country, and especially in this state, are slow about catching on that non-smokers are tired of smokers occupying their space.

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The Republic of Ireland not only bans smoking in restaurants, it bans smoking in pubs.

If you have ever been to Ireland, then you understand that is really a big deal. I don’t know what the percentage is of people who smoke in Ireland, but it seems to me, from casual observation, that the number is quite high, even higher than it is in the United States.

Somehow, our politicians have determined that more voters smoke than do non-voters, so they are determined to do nothing about it. Personally, I think they are badly wrong in that perception. The more highly educated a person is the more likely that person is to vote — and the more likely that person is not to smoke.

Some folks say that if smoking is banned in restaurants, then restaurants will lose business because the smokers will stay home and cook their own meals. That makes no sense at all.

There might be a temporary drop in business at the restaurants, but it would be very temporary. If the folks who smoked wanted to stay home and cook, they already would be doing so.

Frankly, if smoking has that much to do with eating out, it is likely that the restaurants would see an increase in the number of people eating out and not the reverse with a ban on smoking in restaurants.

By all accounts, fewer adults smoke than don’t smoke. I mention adults at this juncture because it is legal only for people 18 years old or older to purchase tobacco in much of this country. The latest figures I have seen put the percentage of smokers at about 25 percent of the population and declining.

If that includes both those who legally can smoke and those who manage to get their hands on cigarettes despite their age, then the potential restaurant crowd grows if you ban smoking, rather than the other way around, using the logic on smoking for predicting the restaurant crowd.

Then there is the equally flawed argument that smoking wherever a person wants, without regards to their neighbors, is a “right” and the rest of us have no “rights” in such cases, even though it is our space that is being invaded.

First of all, those who smoke, just like those who pass gas, add something to the atmosphere. To those of us who don’t smoke, either smell is equally offensive, yet there are no jokes about the smell smokers make, just sighs of disgust and anger at having our space invaded by someone’s offensive habit.

Secondly, scientists have shown, even if the cigarette companies dispute it, that second-hand smoke is dangerous to those breathing it. We don’t allow people to take their guns and shoot anywhere they want to because that endangers the public, so why should we allow smokers to smoke any where they want?

As to freedom, those who don’t smoke have less freedom and fewer rights under the rule that allows folks to smoke wherever they want. I can find no good logic for allowing smokers to run over the rest of us with their self-proclaimed “right.”

I know of restaurants in Mississippi that try to discourage smoking by not putting ashtrays on tables, yet the management says nothing if someone lights up and uses his or her plate for an ashtray. That’s another bit of logic I don’t understand.

Don’t bother me with arguments that most restaurants have smoking and no-smoking areas, either. I have found very few restaurants with a no-smoking area where you don’t smell the stink of cigarette smoke from the smoking area.

Personally, I think it is time we banned smoking in public places nationally, and especially in restaurants and other indoor gathering spots.

My final question is, why do we Mississippi have to be last in virtually everything that is good for people, from education to health, and be at the front in virtually every aspect that in bad for people, such as illiteracy and ill health?

It’s high time we started leading on something that is good for our citizens.