Friday, June 17, 2005

Smoking ban bitchery.

So DCist sent all of us contributors out into the world this week to get some feet-on-the-ground material together on the smoking ban. I'm not going to get into the specifics of the upcoming article, because if we run it, I don't want to bigfoot it.

But, as an ancillary activity to my assignment, I thought it might be useful to familiarize myself with both sides of the issue by exploring their websites and such. Personally, on a line from zero to one-hundred, with zero being "Let Them Smoke" and one hundred being "Ban the Ciggies" and fifty being "Don't know, don't care", you can measure me out at 55*. I think that bar proprietors probably deserve to make their own decisions, but these bans have been done in New York and California and the Republic has survived--and anyway, any ban can always be unbanned, so, whatevs, let's try it.

However, after getting some full on exposure to the various players who post messages and "debate" the issue online, I only hope that once the issue is over, there's something I can do--emit some smell or radiate some ultrahigh sonic frequency, to keep these people out of bars I'm in, because by and large, the people on both sides are utter and complete assholes.

Seriously. They are a gaggle of dicks. There are exceptions, of course--Julian Sanchez and my buddy who Rambles the Rock Creek are stand-up sorts, and this dude Eric at Breathefree is a nice guy. But the rest--gawd, drop a roof on 'em.

The opponents of the ban are repulsively shrill and given to insane flights of hyperbole. A lot of what is wrong with them can be summed up in their widely known catch phrase, "Smoking is healthier than fascism." Sweet Jeebus! Banning cigarettes from bars is not fascism. It's not remotely fascism. It's not the product of fascism and it's not the slippery slope to fascism. It's just not. It's fucking not. If Mein Kampf had led Germany to ban cigarettes instead of banning, uh, JUDAISM, there would be a Disneyworld in Dresden right fucking now.

On the other side, the ban supporters are even worse in a way, because they don't even try to hide the fact that at the root of their passion is simply that they don't like smokers. They're insulting and crass, glorying in imagining how great it will be when they have their way and smokers are pissed off. They feed themselves today on tomorrow's schadenfreude--and while there's nothing wrong with that if you want to write opinion pieces for your blog, it's the worst frame of mind to be in when formulating public policy. Why do my Democrats lose the gun control debate again and again? Because they don't even try to hide their wrongheaded contempt for gun owners, and in the end they look like assholes--not the party that places value in the notion of "innocent until proven guilty."

In both camps, they evince a malady rampant in the average college sophomore where they've taken a couple of introductory paragraphs of knowledge on a topic and have branded themselves geniuses. The folks at Ban the Ban are, more or less, trying to dine out on a dime's worth of libertarian ideology. The SmokeFree contingent have wrapped themselves in the cloak of workplace safety, but don't seem to know much about arguing in favor of it, other than to say that workplace safety sounds like a neato keen idea.

As it stands, a majority of council members stand in favor of the ban. So what does Ban the Ban do? They've posted two articles in the past week insulting Councilmembers Graham and Fenty. Yeah, I'm betting that'll really work wonders as far as prying them back into your corner, guys! Way to go! Granted, libertarians aren't the greatest at winning pals and influencing peeps--they are, by and large, Platonist hacks who prefer the notion of living in a "system" to living in "the world", and it wouldn't be insulting them to say that they consider crankiness to be their birthright. Nevertheless, as dumb as it is to insult the people you need to reach, they should know better than to try that shit on DC politicos. I could write The Unabridged History of Occasions in Which DC Politicians Were Shamed Into Acting in about five minutes, and it would fit on the back of a postage stamp.

Of the two groups, I'm guessing the SmokeFree contingent cuts a more tactful figure in public. I imagine that when they show up at these townhalls, they leave their nasty asshole personalities at the door and come in looking clean, scrubbing, and not wailing hyperbole. They are better organized and seemingly better funded, and they're winning the debate. I guess what bugs me most about them is that you just know that after they win, there will be a lot of self-congratulation and then you'll never hear from them again. Don't expect this crowd to take their well-oiled machine and successful tactics and put them to use in the service of a more challenging yet relatable activity--like protecting the workers who work in meatpacking plants, who would wail with joy to have anyone take an interest in their workplace safety, or set their sights on solving an actual problem that threatens the Republic, like getting the nation's uninsured some health care.

ASTHMATIC: Please help me. I can't afford my albuterol prescription!

SMOKEFREE: Wow. That sucks. Hey, at least you can go to a bar!

Yeah, after the ban is put in place, you can expect a lot a stale conversations about the time they totally shot all the fish that were in that barrel!

The only good news for those of us who value each other's company, in eateries and bars clouded in blue-grey haze or otherwise, is that this handful of jerkwads will still have a mission to carry out somewhere in the country. Let us hope that when all is said and done and the health hazard from smoking is moved from inside the bars to outside in the neighborhood, that the victors and the losers have enough stomach to carry on with their fight--preferably in the vicinity of Eagle Pass, Texas.

*What? Ban the Ban had Ahmed Chalabi apologist/delerium tremens sufferer Christopher Hitchens speak on their behalf? Ugh. Make me a straight 60. Hey, Hitch! Dorothy Parker is long dead! Get over it! And bathe, for Christ's sakes!


Anonymous said...

Dorothy Parker is dead??? But...but....I thought she decided to LIVE! Who knew.

mjalex said...

Personally, I like the idea of bars making their own decision to disallow smoking. If the government wants to offer tax breaks, I suppose that's ok, though I don't really understand why. I understand the argument that smoke is bad for the wait staff, but many of them smoke too, and no one is forcing them to work at a bar. If you don't want to work in a smoky environment, there are plenty of restaurants to work at, and some bars cater to non-smokers.

Without a ban, smoke-haters can meet each other at bars that don't allow smoking, and smokers and the smoke-ambivalent can meet at bars that do. If smoke-haters don't want to be around smokers, let them go to their own bars.

People who don't like being around smoke have a place to go. If it catches on, maybe more bars would follow suit.

(What's next? "Alcohol is bad for you, and causes the sweat that evaporates off of your body to smell really yucky. Multiply that by 100 people, and you have yourself some unsafe working conditions. It's time to ban alcohol in bars!")

Anonymous said...

Not only that but talking can lead to agruments which cause hypertension, a known reason for heart attacks. so ban talking in bars too.

cuff said...

"I could write The Unabridged History of Occasions in Which DC Politicians Were Shamed Into Acting in about five minutes, and it would fit on the back of a postage stamp."

Dead on, DCeiver, dead on.

Gary said...

Ultimately, everyone on either side of this latest polarizing issue is only looking out for their own self interest. The smokers don't want the ban b/c they want to smoke wherever they feel like going. The non-smokers want the ban b/c they want the abject absence of smoke wherever they feel like going. It's all about me, what I want, and fuck anyone who doesn't agree with me.

Call it over-inflated self-importance or egregious self-entitlement (which it is), but around the D.C. Metro area--dare I say America as a whole?--it's the norm.

The biggest problem here is that everyone is extrapolating their personal opinion/preference, and holding up the "welfare of our whole fucking society" as reason to be on their side. The smokers cry facism/liberty/rights, the nons cry health issues/odor/workplace saftey (as if this is an OSHA matter). There's not a single person on either side that gives a fuck about the affect on society, ban or not.

Why? Because, ban or not, there's not going to be an affect on society. Just the individual constituents who pussy-whine this way or that, depending on the outcome and how it fits/skews against their personal ideal. Or, condensed, bitching will effuse from only the inconvenienced.

Underused said...

You're too generous DCeiver - I've been in a perpetual screed for two weeks now. And I've been planting "fascism" comments like Johnny Appleseed. But off the record, yes, I know it's not fascism.

Nevertheless, I am extrodinarily enraged by the ban - not b/c I really care whether or not I can smoke in a bar - but because this ban is predicated on the safety of the employee. And yet, of the dozens of bar employees I've talked to, none of them - yes, zero - support this ban. That includes bar employees who are not smokers, the few that there are. So the way I see it, you have a bunch a people who want to go home smelling smokefree after the one night a week that they go out, lobbying for a smoking ban predicated on the employees' best interests, when in fact the employees don't want the ban and have to live with that consequence 7 nights a week. The tyranny of the moral busybodies.

Anonymous said...

I don't smoke, but just out of curiosity....are we allowed to smoke on your blog? ~~Washington Cube

Anonymous said...

P.S. There's an article over on the Bostonist today called "Take Your Boobs Out, Put Your Butts Out." I wanna write headlines like that when I grow up. ~~ Washington Cube

Jake said...

As far as I can tell, it's literally impossible to have a reasoned, rational argument/conversation about the smoking ban. It is pretty annoying, since I'm also on the fence about it and would like to at least be able to pick a side that doesn't seem at least partially insane.

mjalex said...

Oh, and once you get rid of smoking in bars, all of a sudden you can really smell the stale smell of week-old spilled beer and people whose armpits are too good for deoderant. Really, everyone should be thanking cigarettes for covering up all the other bad smells at bars!

A Unique Alias said...

Well written.

Obviously the best solution is to let the market decide. Unfortunately for Smoke Free DC, the market has already decided. It is about the one-night-a-week bargoer wanting to have a taste of the various establishments in DC without actually having to deal with the seedy reality that is a DC Bar.

I moved to DC after they banned smoking in Montgomery County. I don't know where I'll go next if they ban it here.

Ban Proponents - Successful Business Model? Halo. That place is non-smoking and successful at it. So, if you're one of those Friday-nighters, and you're not afraid of gay men, head on down to Halo and enjoy your mojito.

All that being said, I'm against the ban because I smoke, and it seems wrong to restrict my liberty to do so, and to restrict the capabilities of the business-owners who furnish me said liberty.

Anonymous said...

However, after getting some full on exposure to the various players who post messages and "debate" the issue online, I only hope that once the issue is over, there's something I can do--emit some smell or radiate some ultrahigh sonic frequency, to keep these people out of bars I'm in, because by and large, the people on both sides are utter and complete assholes.

Funny, I feel the same way about you.

The Deceiver said...

I wouldn't have it any other way!