The very first trip I ever took to the General Assembly was to accompany then-Delegate Thelma Drake to a committee hearing where I testified about the need to exercise control over credit card companies. I recall getting out of her car and lighting a cigarette. Upon reaching the doors of the building, I put my cigarette out. After all, I had been used to not smoking inside government buildings, having been a federal government employee when that ban was introduced. (That is a story for another day.)
Upon entering the building, my first stop was the ladies’ room. When I came out, I could smell smoke – in this case, cigar smoke. I asked Del. Drake about it and she said that smoking was indeed allowed in the building and that up until recently, members of the GA smoked at their desks during session! As Margaret Edds said in her column today:
By all rights, as a reporter covering the General Assembly over several decades, I probably should be dead by now. Other than “bartender,” if there were a profession or a workplace more consistently draped in a canopy of smoke, you’d be hard-pressed to find it. Once, I remember counting the ashtrays in a committee room. Astonishingly, they outnumbered chairs.
However, it is not because of the history of Virginia being so intertwined with tobacco that I oppose the smoking ban. Nor is it because I am a smoker. Heck, I’ve had parties at my house and retreated outside my own home to smoke in deference to those who don’t smoke. No, I oppose the ban because it is simply the wrong thing to do.
People talk about personal responsibility and how the government shouldn’t interfere in our lives and then they turn around and support a ban like this. Where’s the consistency of thought? Either you want government to regulate behavior or you don’t.
Everyone has a choice. I choose not to go to outdoor baseball parks that ban smoking. (Of course these same parks allow folks to get rip roaring drunk and then get behind the wheel of a car. Hmmm.) I sometimes choose to go to nonsmoking restaurants because I happen to not like smoke around me when I’m eating. But I am unwilling to impose my choice on someone else. It’s kind of like what was said about gay marriage: don’t want one? Don’t get one.
Don’t want to be around smoke? Don’t go to a restaurant where it is allowed. Vote with your feet and your pocketbook. If enough people don’t want smoking in restaurants, guess what will happen? Restaurants will be smoke-free. We already see that happening.
But for those who want to have a cigarette, places like Greenie’s shouldn’t be put out of business simply because government is “protecting” us. If the majority of Greenie’s customers prefer a smoke-free environment, guess what? Greenie’s will either adopt a non-smoking policy or go out of business.
Government is not always the answer, folks. Business people who are afraid of being the first one on the block to go smoke-free have no guts. If you believe it is the best thing for your customers and staff, then do it. Grow a pair and stop relying on government to help you out.