I go to a tavern once a week. My order is usually the same, a pint of Bass or Sam Adams and a plate of wings with an extra order of bleu cheese dressing. When the wings are finished I get another pint and usually, but not always, light up a cigar. Some of my friends will also light up a stogie or a Marlboro. When we're finished, we tip well, because a good waiter deserves it.
Some weeks I don't go out, but other weeks I go out more than once, so I can estimate fairly accurately that I patronize a local pub/restaurant about sixty times a year. I'm a 60x guy.
New York State just passed a draconian anti-smoker bill. It was rammed through the legislature in four days, by weasels who ignored the desperate pleas of tavern and restaurant owners who know it will devastate their business. This is not the way democracy is supposed to work. It's a good model for a totalitarian regime, though. When the law goes into effect, my tavern patronage is going to drop dramatically. A bar where I can't smoke is as useless as acting lessons from Jennifer Lopez.
The Big Lie is that it's to protect workers in the hospitality industry. But talk to any nicotine nanny long enough and they'll admit their real agenda - they want to make it so difficult to smoke that people will quit. It won't work. They'll only succeed in annoying the hell out of us, and annoyed smokers calm down by lighting up.
By now anyone with more than two functioning brain cells knows know that the second hand smoke hysteria is based on outright lies. It started when the EPA reported that SHS causes 3,000 deaths a year. Getting to that number required them to ignore 2/3s of the data, then double their margin of error, then double that number to bring it up to 3,000. A federal judge (who had a history of siding with the government on tobacco issues) vacated the study for massive fraud. But that didn't stop the anti smoking brigade, who continued to quote it at every opportunity. They learned that facts don't matter - if they repeated the lie often enough, lazy journalists and gullible columnists will parrot them. Inspired by their success, they upped the numbers. First they jumped it up to 50,000, then to 53,000, and these days it's at 63,000. If these numbers smell funny, it's because the nannies pulled them out of their ass.
Nannies will tell you that smoking bans are good for business, spouting numbers which are also scented with posterior perfume. One of their favorite claims is that California's 1998 ban resulted in a 5% increase in the hospitality business. That number includes places like coffee houses, delis and fast food joints that were already non-smoking, but the fraud is deeper than that. In 1998 our economy was flourishing, and states that weren't plagued with bans were reporting increases of 10-15% or more.
The nannies have a new trick to mislead the gullible - the New Business License Fraud. "Look how many restaurants and taverns and eateries opened the year after the ban!" They ignore that half of them were business that would have been non-smoking anyway, and that many of the others are at locations that were forced out of business by the ban. The new owners bought out the old owners at the bankruptcy sale. That's not a new business, that's a failed business. Nannies also never mention how many new business licenses were issued in the years before the ban.
I'm not going to become a recluse, a 0x guy, but I'll probably go from being 60x to 10-12x. Even if a 6x nanny doubles his patronage, it's not going to make up for our party moving to my home or the home of a friend. (Our non-smoking friends will be joining us, so the ban will have cost their business as well. Week after week after week.) And how many 100x or 150x guys are smokers? How many nannies will have to take to the pubs to make up for their patronage?
Nannies claim they will now flock to restaurants and taverns they once avoided because of the smoke. But they are nannies. They won't have smoke to bitch about, but they'll complain that the food is too hot, or too cold, or too expensive, and the music is too loud and not the kind they like anyway. If they leave a tip they'll carefully calculate and recalculate it to be exactly 15%. Then they'll go back home, determined to lobby for more laws to force restaurants and taverns to cater to their nit picking.
Fine dining restaurants will also lose a considerable amount of business. Many smokers will stay home more often, but smokers who do go out will be less likely to order the most profitable thing on the menu: desert. In a free country they would have had a smoke, then ordered a cup of coffee (which is almost pure profit) and a slice of Death By Chocolate. Now they'll be far more likely to shrug off desert and leave after the main course. That will also mean a smaller tip for the waiter.
Every place that has implemented smoking bans have seen many taverns and restaurants close, and most others cut way back on their staff. A ban in Vancouver resulted in 750 bartenders and waitresses losing their jobs in just three months. Places with a large smoking clientele usually struggle for a few months, then close. Bingo halls shut down, leaving the charities they supported desperate for cash. And the promised surge in business never, ever happens.
Which eateries will survive? Some smaller places will manage to hang on, but the big winners will be the huge faceless corporate outfits, places like TGIF and Applebees and The Olive Garden. They can absorb the losses and keep functioning. The small mom and pop operations, the places that help give an area it's character and personality, are the ones that will wither and die from the lost revenue. So when you hear someone complain about how homogenized we are, how every town looks the same, tell them to thank a nanny.
Somewhere in the back of my closet there's a deep fryer, keeping company with all the other $39.95 merchandise that was bought with enthusiasm, used twice, and forgotten. It's back there somewhere with the rice steamer, Salad Shooter, and George Foreman Pasta Pickler. I've got to dig it out and make some wings, because I've got friends coming over tonight. We would have gone to a bar, but, well, you know the story. Besides, in another few years, that extra helping of bleu cheese is going to be illegal too.
What about Third Hand Smoke?
Other THMC articles on related subjects:
The New Racists
After writing this article, I started keeping a list of places that had been adversely affected by bans, many to the point of closing.
Here's how the nannies skew the numbers to claim bans are good for business.
© 2003 Dave Hitt