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Bar smoking ban turns 13

Publication Date: 2011-01-14
  • Author:Nuke Brunswick
  • Publication:The Mountain Messenger

Sixteen years ago this month California banned cigarette smoking in restaurants and 13 years ago, on January 1, 1998, the ban was expanded to outlaw smoking in bars, amid cries from bar owners that they were being put out of business. That seems not to have happened.

Studies funded by bar and restaurant associations often find that smoking legislation has a negative effect on restaurant and bar profits. Such associations have also criticized studies which found that such legislation had no impact. The old saying still stands: "If you torture the statistics long enough they will tell you the story you want to hear."

"It was the best thing that ever happened to me, personally," Richie Costello, owner of McGee's in Nevada City, said of the indoor smoking prohibition. People stopped blowing smoke in his face. But what about business? "It went up," Costello said. "Our business went up for a while and then flattened out. When the ban went into effect, I said, well, let's roll with it and see what happens." He made his comments on a jam-packed smokeless Friday night.

Instead of bars going out of business, drinkers just went outside to smoke. Now in front of almost any bar in California you'll see two separate groups; smokers and cell phone addicts. Smokers stand hunched, protecting their smokes against an imaginary wind. Cell phoners' eyes are set on blank.

Jean Nicot (think "nicotine") introduced tobacco to France 451 years ago, in 1560. The first report of a smoking Englishman is of a sailor in Bristol in 1556, seen "emitting smoke from his nostrils." Today over a billion people worldwide light up every day. But country after country is instituting public smoking bans. If Irish bars can be made smoke free without causing riots, there seems to be no limit.

Shortly after the smoking ban in January of 1988 I talked to a woman working in a Placerville bar, where business had taken a dip. The new law's purpose was to protect employees from second hand smoke. "They talk about repealing it," she said. "If they do, I'm gonna quit my job. I feel better than I have in years!"

Smoke 'em if you got 'em...but not in here!

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