Vice Squad
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Smoking Bans

Someone with more patience than I have could probably keep track of all the legislative and judicial developments worldwide with respect to public smoking bans. I'll offer a small subset instead:

(1) Wyoming and Virginia have scuttled, for now, attempts to establish statewide smoking bans. In the linked Washington Post story concerning Virginia, the following facts are provided: "About two-thirds of restaurants in Virginia ban smoking. In Northern Virginia, that figure is 80 percent, and in Fairfax County, almost 95 percent." I was surprised by this. I have long been puzzled over why more restaurants and bars do not go smoke free voluntarily in the absence of a ban, given that about 80 percent of American adults do not smoke. (I can think of lots of plausible stories, but I am not convinced by any of them.) These Virginia data make me think that maybe I just didn't give things enough time.

(2) The Illinois smoking ban has been a boon to Missouri riverboat casinos. Illinois is considering exempting its casinos from its new smoking ban.

(3) A bar somewhere in remote Minnesota has found what appears to be a legal means around the smoking ban. The state law exempts actors in theatrical productions, so Tennessee Williams' plays are still available in Minnesota. But what is a "theatrical production," anyway? The state law offers no clue. So on Saturday nights, the employees of the Minnesota bar dress up in Renaissance-style costumes, while the customers can become actors -- and hence smoking-eligible -- if they purchase for $1 and wear the appropriate button: a robust response to a non-robust law.

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