Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy birthday to Illinois' indoor smoking ban

News media in Chicago are commemorating the first anniversary of the state-wide ban on indoor cigarette smoking. The benefits are obvious: I can go to any sports event, bar, nightclub or restaurant and not worry about suffering in a smoking environment. I lead a smoke-free lifestyle, and I don’t think I should need to sacrifice that privilege just to enjoy an indoor establishment. So for purely selfish reasons, I love the one-year-old law. I think it has more far-reaching, less obvious benefits as well. It very much dilutes the social aspect of smoking, which for many smokers is the whole point. Some “non-smokers” smoke when they drink, or only smoke when they are out with friends. The new law makes this habit terribly difficult. People have a choice: stay home, smoke outdoors, or go smokeless for the evening. Part of the fun of smoking, as I understand it, is smoking with others, using cigarettes while flirting, and looking sophisticated smoking at the bar. No longer. With fewer opportunities to smoke, fewer people are going to become addicted, and perhaps fewer young people will decide to start.

Has the cigarette machine business fallen on hard times? I remember seeing cigarette machines in restaurant lobbies when I was a kid. (Especially at The Chandelier on Dempster Street in Skokie.) Now the law requires that cigarette machines only be located in an over-21 area, and said areas—bars and casinos?—don’t allow smoking in Illinois. So I was pretty surprised to see a cigarette machine at Nick’s Beer Garden Saturday night. Nine dollars a pack. Wow. I hope it accepts five-dollar bills.

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