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The Great Debates Smoking in
Restaurants


Reader Feedback:
Can you stand yet another opinion about smoking in restaurants? Here in Casper, Wyoming, our community just endured a 7-month-long battle over a proposed smoking ordinance. Our local City Council approved an ordinance which would have banned smoking in most restaurants. The tobacco industry predictably moved in and mobilized the locals in the hospitality industry to gather ballot signatures for a referendum. Big Tobacco's rallying cry was "rights," which resonated with many libertarian-type thinkers, people suspicious of Big Government and other reactionary Wyomingites. Well, the smoking ban lost - by a margin of less than 500 votes.

My husband and I supported the ban, partly because we have a young son whose health we want to protect and partly because we are tired of breathing second-hand smoke in "family" restaurants. Virtually all the national chain restaurants'locations here in the Casper area, such as Perkins, Village Inn, Denny's, Applebee's, Outback and Pizza Hut, allow smoking and have no meaningful division between the smoking and non-smoking sections. (Applebee's and Outback wouldn't have been subject to the ban since they are in a neighboring community, but you get my drift.) (Nearly all the fast-food places such as McDonald's, Burger King and Taco Bell are smoke-free; here I'm talking about sit-down restaurants.) The "rights" people (i.e., Big Tobacco and its minions) arrogantly snorted, "well, if you don't want to breathe second hand smoke, go somewhere else." Trouble is, here in Casper, "somewhere else" is pretty much limited to fast-food restaurants and a tiny handful of sit-down restaurants. Not much choice if you want to go "somewhere else."

We were appalled and dismayed at the arrogance and intransigence displayed by the "hospitality" industry. Restaurant and hotel managers and owners trumpeted the importance of "accommodating" smokers and nonsmokers (another tobacco industry ploy), insisted that restaurants are not "public places," and dismissed the health concerns inherent in second-hand smoke. Several restaurants displayed signs urging people to vote to "restore business rights" and vote against the ban. Every time I saw one of those signs, I thought, "There's a business that doesn't care about its customers. Obviously, they don't want my business, so I'm not going to give it to them."

Well, to make a long story short, Phillip Morris and R.J. Reynolds won this round. Consumers lost. But I suspect in the long run the losers will be the restaurants that continue to allow smoking. We won't patronize those restaurants, and we know several other smoking-ban supporters who won't patronize smoke-friendly restaurants. Meanwhile, we have a brand-new range in our kitchen, and I have some cookbooks that need a workout. So long for now. I'm off to the kitchen.

Wendy S. Owens
Casper, WY


**Next Post

I have worked in restaurants for 10 years. I am also a non-smoker, and I have to say that I am not looking forward to the non-smoking ban that seems to be sweeping across the country.

The first argument that I have is the fact that in every area where a smoking ban occurred, sales dropped. Many of the proponents of the smoking ban will argue this point, saying that restaurant sales as a total have not dropped. This is true, until you look at what they call a restaurant. Fast Food sales went up, and casual and fine dining went down. If you look at sales trends of restaurants where you have a server, you will see the money drop.

Second, I work the smoking section. That is where I am comfortable. The reason is that people in the smoking section are more laid back. I can joke around more. People like to sit back and have a few more drinks, tell a few jokes, and smoke a few cigarettes. In the non-smoking section, even in a place where they have a separate room for smoking and non, the non-smokers are up tight. It is harder to serve non-smoking tables than smoking. I get more frustrated, sell less food and drinks, have less of an opportunity to provide good service, and over all make less money.

In my opinion, people are more preoccupied with people who are smoking, than with having a good time. I remember a table I served in Non-smoking where they could see a group of smokers through a glass window. They could not smell the smoke, and I think that I heard five separate comments about how they could not wait until my restaurant was a non-smoking establishment.

I feel that this smoking ban is the next step in the falling of restaurants. You used to go out to a restaurant to have a good time. It was something special. Now, you go in, you eat, you leave. It is not about having a good time. It is not something to look forward to. Now the only people that, on a regular basis, treated us like an oasis in the modern world are going to be pushed out.

Tim


**Next Post

I have been looking for a venue to air my opinions other than a letter to the editor of our local paper. The ban on smoking in a privately owned restaurant is not only constitutionally illegal, but an example of the lengths our government is going to regulate the common people. When local, state or federal government tells a business owner how to run their business, they've gone too far. As an interesting argument...why couldn't a person open a totally smoking restaurant and ban non-smokers? Why can't restaurant owners install a ventilating system that completely disperses the smoke from the premises? They could charge a fee to their smoking patrons, who would probably gladly pay to defray the costs! If all the 'majority' of non-smokers who so fervently want this ban would only dine in non-smoking restaurants, I'm sure the 'smoking' restaurant could decide for itself if they would benefit from creating a non-smoking atmosphere. There are places I've gone all my life to relax with friends, have a drink and a smoke over conversation for hours. These places don't want to be non-smoking. Why should they be forced to comply with an unconstitutional rule? Where are all the people I hear grumbling? Even most of the non-smokers I know feel government has gone too far again!

Thank you for your time and space!
Lynn Miller


**Next Post

Lynn, you make some great points, but what you are missing is the key to the entire issue. It's all about the health of the employees. The smokers come and go, the employees are there hour after hour. Eventually some of them get sick, and eventually some of them sue for damages. The government decides the drinking age and even when someone can legally work in a restaurant. The government protects the people in all areas of our lives, and they see smoking as a serious and legitimate health hazard. It's a tough one because some restaurants lose business, and many people see a smoking ban as infringing on the rights of an owner. One can argue that a person should have the right to kill themselves, but you can't kill others in the process.

Only my thoughts, and I thank you for yours.

Bob Bickell
Publisher, Restaurant Report


**Next Post

In response to Lynn: "When local, state or federal government tells a business owner how to run their business, they've gone too far."

Lynn, you're right. This is ridiculous. Let's really show the government how we feel. Here's what we'll do:

1. Let's eliminate the need for handicap accessible bathrooms! Too expensive. Heck, let's ban handicap people altogether!

2. Let's ignore the age limit on alcohol. That's sure to raise alcohol sales!

3. Let's abolish the minimum employment age. 10 year olds work for peanuts. Great for the bottom line.

4. Oh, and let's say good bye to minimum wages! Heck, it's working well in China.

5. Health department inspections? Let's get rid of those too. Why should they "tell a restaurant what to do"?

6. And those darn fire sprinklers. They're way too expensive to install. Let's give everyone water-guns, just in case.

Billy Parsons


**Next Post

There seems to be a simple compromise to this debate. Allow the private business owner to decide. I agree, smoking shouldn't be allowed in family restaurants, but bars and lounges should be left to private decision. Smokers aren't evil people, we want to enjoy a night out like anyone else, so why shouldn't we have a choice too? And for the owners that choose to run smoking facilities, let your employees know in advance so that you can staff accordingly. This is America, we are the land of compromise.

-njt


**Next Post

Here's my prediction, for what it's worth: The truck stop restaurant will soon fade into the twilight along with Rt 66. I ask the same question in every state where the ban is expanded without exception or grandfather laws concerning truck stops. I ask it of waitresses. I ask it of managers, and cooks.

The question is this: "Has the smoking ban affected business here?"

The answer about 98% of the time is a rolling of the eyes and an a conversation about future employment.

I know most of you don't care about truckers. That is evident more and more. I would even venture so far as to say the powers that now rule California, actually hate trucks, truck drivers and would like to figure a way to keep us out of there altogether. Fat chance! Since we deliver their toilet paper and iPods! But when you are away from any real home for upwards of 300 days per year, you like walking into a place where there is a homey atmosphere. Where even if you don't smoke, your buddy who does can sit and relax while chewing the fat or watching T.V. in a lounge that is either upstairs or otherwise away from public view without being afraid the thought police are going to come whisk him away for wearing a cigar in his shirt pocket.

Some restaurant managers have not sat idly by, but have gone to city counsels and legislators and the like to plead the case that truck stops are a special case with a specific client base. To no avail. Those City managers/counsels, and those legislators simply don't care that that manager is probably going to have to uproot his/her family or find employment in another industry.

Oh, by the way, I read just yesterday there's a new proposal in California. It's a mandatory temperature override on your personal home's heating and cooling system. No, it's not a rumor: story link.

And I'll bet the farm it will eventually pass, "for the greater good."

There's my two cents and a little change, I guess.

Smoky
Your Walmart/Dollar Store/computer store/dairy and vegetable man


**Next Post

Over the past 20ish years, I've been in the F&B business. Nightclubs, country clubs, fine dining, casual dining, catering, liquor sales. 20 years ago, guests were complaining about the wait for a smoking table; outraged that non-smoking sections were catering to the minority; waiting for smoking tables as far from non-smoking as possible (non might contain children which used to be considered a pall on the dining experience).

Forget the science, it's not my area. Let's look at the market.

Smoking sections shrank, not grew, child-friendly seems expected, and the market dictated all of it. Give them what they want or go out of business.

I've seen guests wait for a non table, threaten to not wait, complain while waiting, complain while eating, give up and take a smoking table, sit in a smoking bar while complaining and waiting for a non-smoking table, start reserving non tables, never make a reservation, explain why they should stop patronizing a place with a smoking section. And do it daily, weekly, or monthly.

I have never seen one stop complaining, stop waiting, or stop coming in.

They don't support me with their taxes. They are not required to come in. They spend where they want. If the market only wanted non-smoking establishments, they would only support non-smoking establishments. Private business would go along or go under.

Why do I need legislation to force me to fulfill the needs of my guests? If banning smoking would be good for my business, I would have already done it.

What happened to free enterprise and all that? Hamburger could clog arteries and eventually kill someone. If I only server hamburgers, you either take the risk or eat elsewhere. If everyone eats elsewhere, I get a clue and start serving broccoli.

Guests fall into three smoking categories: smokers, non-smokers, and anti-smokers. In general, smokers are perceived as being more patient and spending more money especially on coffee/drinks/dessert. Non-smokers will take First Available tables and are perceived as more open, relaxed and tolerant. Anti-smokers are perceived as pessimistic, judgmental, masochists. After all, they knew before they left the house that smoke was going to ruin their meal and chose to do it anyway.

In my experience, waiters without asthma, smoke allergies or other health problems exacerbated by smoke prefer to wait on smokers. Of course, in my experience, people with those issues don't work in restaurants. Or coal mines. Or shipyards. Or NASCAR pits.

Do non-smoking guests attend monster truck shows? Wait at bus stops? Drive with their windows open? Barbecue with charcoal?

Jenn S.


Your Turn:
If you've got something to say, we would love to hear from you. Please visit the Great Debates Feedback Page to send in your comments.

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