DC Drinks

Reviews, rantlets and ribald on all things alcoholic.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

A Mirthless Risk-free Disneyland: The Case Against Banning Smoking In DC Bars

"This was the atmosphere — rich in tobacco and other fumes — of the taverns and coffee-houses where the American revolution matured. Instead, we are to have a mirthless, risk-free Disneyland." --- Christopher Hitchens

I am not a regular smoker. I'm what you call a "pleasure smoker", ie, I only smoke when it's complementing some food or beverage. On a recent vacation, I purchased some dried sausage, a bottle of Famous Grouse scotch and a 95-cent pack of Lucky Strikes. I sliced the sausage, poured the scotch and lit the cigarette, then lined them up on a table. For the next 30 minutes I enjoyed one of the best savory combinations of my life as I dragged, chewed and sipped. When combined with certain foods or beverages, in a cozy bar or pub, a cigarette can be a very fine experience worth cherishing. With smoking, there's a certain romantic appeal that feels like you're in Paris in the 1920s or in some speakeasy in New York, doing the forbidden.

It's not possible to get the same pleasure huddled outside in the rain, cold or blistering heat. If Washington DC's smoking ban goes into effect, it will be a mark against the enjoyment of life. But, you say, what about all the people whose health is affected by this "enjoyment of life"? I would submit that the secondhand smoke "problem" is a non-issue. The amount of smoke inhaled through diluted air is negligible and not cause for concern. It's maybe the equivalent of smoking one cigarette a day. Even NIH says that "more research is needed in order to confirm a link" between secondhand smoke and cancer.

But let's skip all the slippery-slope arguments, health issues and platitudes about personal choice for a minute. At stake is whether or not we are we going to have a city that's a "mirthless, risk-free Disneyland", as Hitchens puts it. Is that the type of culture you want to live in? Sterile, risk-free and handed to you on a hospital tray? I think not.


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