Another giant step has been taken towards the Californication of New Jersey. In a matter of days, Acting, and soon to be Former Governor Codey will sign this piece of Nanny-State Legislative Crap into law. Yes, it’s New Jersey’s very own Anti-Smoking Law.
The new law bans smoking in virtually all indoor places with public access or in which people are working. It includes restaurants, bars, and even private clubs that serve liquor (including fraternal organizations and veterans’ Posts**). It comes on the heels of a similar law that passed in New York City in 2003.
I said my piece about the New York City Legislation here, and there is no point in repeating it, except to point out that, as was the case for the New York law, the ultimate hook on which the Jersey law hangs is a stated “concern for the workers” who are exposed to secondhand smoke.
Assuming for the sake of discussion that secondhand smoke poses a significant health hazard (and, once the hysteria is stripped away, this is far from clear), and further assuming that exposure to secondhand smoke is any more dangerous than working in a bus garage, the stated health concern was bogus in New York and even more so in New Jersey.
Both the New York and New Jersey laws have an exemption for Cigar Bars. Where’s the concern for the health of the people who work in Cigar Bars? Don’t bother looking; it’s not there. However, New Jersey goes one better in proving the “concern for workers” rationale to be pure baloney, in that the New Jersey law contains an exemption for casinos. I can tell you that there are legions of people who work in Jersey’s casinos. What about their health? Ooopsy!
Here’s the deal. As for the cigar bars, as I noted in the post linked above, the beautiful people who want to dictate how everyone else should live enjoy a cigar with their cocktails. And, as for the casino exemption, I needn’t remind anyone that, in this state, one does not fool around with casinos and casino revenue. Know what I mean? In addition, I suspect that the aforementioned beautiful people also like to smoke while they gamble.
Look, I can fully understand and appreciate why many non-smokers prefer to eat and drink in a smoke-free setting.. In fact, the majority of good restaurants in New Jersey are already smoke free (I heard the figure 67% in a radio newscast), but they are smoke-free because the owner determined that being smoke-free is good business. Why should a business owner who decides that, for him, permitting smoking on the premises is good business be prohibited from making that choice? The economics would sort all this out, without the “help” of government dictating matters of personal choice.
Instead of the sledgehammer approach taken by New Jersey, I would propose a simple law that would require every restaurant and bar to conspicuously post one of following three signs at the front door:
This is a smoke-free establishment; or
This establishment offers a smoking section; or
Smoking is permitted in this establishment.
Simple. Everyone would be free to choose where to eat and/or drink, based on his or her smoking or non-smoking preference or (as is the case with many people) his or her indifference to it all. And, the owners’ choice of which sign to post would be dictated by the dollars or lack thereof that would be a consequence of those collective choices.
**There may be some wiggle room in the statute for private clubs when used by members and staffed entirely by volunteer members, but that remains to be seen.