Love That Smoky Flavor!
According to this article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Washington University’s Center for Tobacco Policy Research reported finding 31 times as much nicotine in the air of St. Louis restaurants and bars that allow smoking as in establishments where cigarette use is banned. Nicotine has been shown to linger in the air even after circulating through an air purification system, so secondhand smoke can affect nonsmokers who sit in a separate section, as well as any employees who work in a smoking environment.
The article features a photograph of Rachel Kelly, a server who is happy to work in one of Kirkwood’s restaurants where smoking is banned. She also avoids patronizing restaurants that allow smoking, and says that she will leave a restaurant if patrons are smoking cigarettes.
This is a common story in arguments favoring smoking bans, but some parts of the story are being left out. Kelly is protected from secondhand smoke in her work environment, but how can restaurant owners who do allow smoking protect their nonsmoking customers from secondhand smoke? One answer is that the customers can protect themselves by not eating there, which is exactly the strategy employed by Kelly. We’ve discussed many times the fact that no one is forcing customers to eat surrounded by smoke, but should smokers be forced to eat in clean, smoke-free air?
As the article points out, Missouri has a smoking rate of 23.1 percent, which is above the national average of 20 percent. What this tells us is that more than one Missourian out of every five likes to smoke, despite the well-publicized risks of smoking, and despite the rising cost of cigarettes due to increased taxation of tobacco products. If these people continue smoking even in the face of such obstacles, presumably they must derive great enjoyment or utility from it. These citizens are willing to pay large amounts of money for the opportunity to smoke, and presumably, many of them would also pay to engage in various leisure activities while smoking. In his testimony before the City Council of Clayton, David Stokes pointed out that different businesses cater to the unique preferences of their customers, creating a varied marketplace that can satisfy the needs of many. Smokers (and the entrepreneurs who cater to them) may be in the minority, but they have the same rights as other citizens.