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There goes the neighborhood

New Jersey's "we want to be like New York!" attitude has some real downsides sometimes. Mike Bloomberg's ridiculous smoking ban was one thing I didn't miss when I left Manhattan. Now it seems likely to follow me across the Hudson.

I just can't believe this is necessary. Here in Hoboken, you can't swing a cat without hitting half a dozen bars. Do all of them have to be smoking bars or non-smoking bars? Do we have to impose a one-size-fits-all solution?

I think I will now quote one of my favorite political thinkers -- me. This is an excerpt of what I wrote when I lived in Manhattan and the smoking ban was imposed there.

For the record, I don't smoke (except for the occasional cigar). I accept that smokers and non-smokers are incapable of co-existing in the public sphere without one side's wishes being totally and forcibly imposed on the other.

Of course, non-smokers have rights as well, and these obviously need to be considered. Balancing the rights of both groups would not be easy, I'll grant you, but the problem is we're not even trying. As a transplanted Southerner, New York's incredible diversity, tolerance, and non-judgmental attitude had always appealed to me. This mad lurch toward prohibition is troubling.

I'm convinced we can do better. Here's a modest proposal. In a city as large and diverse as New York, there are plenty of bars to go around. Why not have the city sell "smoking licenses", similar to liquor licenses, to bars who wish to cater to smoking clientele? The licenses could be priced in such a way as to guarantee a large selection of both smoking and non-smoking establishments.

If necessary, the number of licenses granted could even be limited. Given the city's current fiscal doldrums, this would yield the added benefit of pumping badly-needed dollars into the municipal treasury. And the end result is that both smokers and non-smokers will have bars to go to where they can be happy and feel at home.

I have bounced this idea off several friends of mine whom I know to be rather fervent anti-smoking zealots. Their response was unanimous: "That sounds fine to me." The problem is no one is proposing this. For Bloomberg, the ban was all-or-nothing.

Look, if I can come up with a reasonable plan off the top of my head after no more than ten minutes' thought, surely professional politicians and city planners could do at least as well. The problem is they're not even trying. And for the most pluralistic city in the world, that's disappointing.


although I am a loyel smoker, and love the combo of a bar, booze and chain-smoking, i DO hate the habit and hope maybe this ban will give me a serious push into quitting. Of course, once the ban formally starts, I may feel differently. Till then, though we have 90 days to smoke our brains out in indoor public places.

The real kicker, though, and "only in New Jersey": the casinos are exempted. How odd, huh? Jeez, isn't that something?

I do find it amazing, though, that all of these smoking-related ailments and problems have suddenly cropped up in the 20 ro so year since smoking started becoming really taboo. I never recall anyone griping that they were "allergic to smoke" when I was a kid.

Give me Paris, at least when I was there and one could smoke anywhere ...

yeah, last time i was in biloxi i visited the casinos where smoking is still legal and it felt weird to me. why exempt casinos? There were even ashtrays in the bathrooms heh. Yeah you're supposed to get free drinks too (yeah right. i hate casinos)

I'm pretty well resigned to the fact that you can't smoke in restaurants anymore, but the bar/nightclub issue is stickier. I guess your licensing idea is a start, though it doesn't make sense to me to force a bar owner to pay for the privledge of 'allowing' smoking (a legal product), but it is still better than this accross-the-board ban nonsense.

Barry, the answer is easy: if there were smoking vs. non-smoking, the non-smoking would lose even more revenue than they have from the all-inclusive ban. That's why there is a cry from bar owners near the casinos in NJ.

I rarely go out any more as I cannot smoke my pipe. Less than five years ago, I was dropping over a $100/week in bars and restaurants easily.

The fact that NY will not allow an enterprising owner to hire only smokers (or non-smokers who choose to sign a waiver) and run a smoking bar or restaurant tells you that the authorities don't want to test their 'all is better now and everyone is happier' philosophy lest those establishments become the new speakeasies of the 21st century.

As a non-smoker, while I have sympathy for smokers re: the ban? I have to admit that I really, really like going out to dinner or a club and not coming home smelling like an ashtray with my throat raw from the smoke. I don't by any means think I'm allergic, but it does make me cough and I wind up sounding like Froggy from Little Rascals. I draw the line at the new trend that seems to be starting re: smoking outside. That's a bit ridiculous.

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