The smoking ban
It was bound to happen sooner or later -- even in Pittsburgh. On Tuesday, Allegheny County Council voted 14-1 to ban smoking in bars, restaurants and pubs.
This news hit me especially hard. I spend the occasional Thursday night sitting in my favorite Irish pub, the Pour House in Carnegie, enjoying adult beverages and a fine Honduran cigar.
Smoking at the pub brings out the conviviality in a man. We puff and we sip, we talk and we laugh. There is nothing novel in our conversations. The same ones have been enjoyed thousands of times inside the pub walls -- their effortlessness made possible by adult beverages and fine Honduran cigars.
But some folks are trying to end our cigar-enhanced conviviality forever.
The libertarian side of me is angry about that. What business is it of the government to ban the use of a legal product within the confines of a privately owned business?
I'm annoyed, too, about the motives that produced the ban. Many of its proponents claim to be motivated by the health and well-being of pub employees, but for many that was merely the pretext.
What really motivates them is their longing for power, their need to sense moral victory -- their need to experience the rush they get when the government forces the rest of us to behave the way they want us to behave.
Their motivation is fueled by a puritanical need for meaning and clarity. In an age of moral relativism -- when good and evil are in broad dispute -- the human heart needs to label something "good" and something else "evil."
Thus, the hot fashion of the moment: Smoking is evil and a government ban is good. Americans loathe smoking the way we once did communism and polio.
Despite the motives behind the ban, however, I see the other side -- that some good will come out of it.
One pub owner told me he favors the ban. He's tired of spending money to operate three smoke-ventilation systems, tired of having to change the filters constantly to minimize the stink.
When I sit down for a meal or a cup of coffee, the last thing I want is for someone to light up right next to me. Isn't this an imposition• An old Steve Martin line illustrates the point. When someone says to him, "Mind if I smoke?" he replies, "No, mind if I pass gas?"
It's true, too, that people with lung disorders are unable to bear the pub smoke. One of my favorite musicians is unable to play some venues because the smoke inflames his asthma. When the ban goes into effect, I'll get to see him play everywhere.
So I see both sides of this issue. I see the upside of a world in which fewer people smoke. There aren't many things you can do that are as bad for your health as smoking cigarettes. And, as the surgeon general reported this summer, secondhand smoke is harmful.
But I worry about the puritanical, government-mandated direction the world is headed in -- that our secular societies are pushing such bans, in part, to fulfill their need for moral clarity.
I worry that in order to attain some good, we'll continue to make pacts with other forces that are not so good -- the forces that restrain, restrict, monitor and punish. The forces that take away our ability to enjoy perfectly legal vices now and then -- you know, the way adults used to function in a free society.
All I know is there aren't many things as enjoyable as an occasional cigar in an Irish pub on a Thursday night, a harmless vice when enjoyed infrequently.
And it annoys me that if this ban is not rescinded -- it may be because proposed gambling casinos may be exempt, supposedly giving them a competitive advantage -- I might not be able to smoke anymore at my favorite Irish pub.
Oh, well, at least I'll still be allowed to drink adult beverages -- until somebody figures out how to ban them again.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Pederson had to go at Pitt
- Steelers, young and old, thirst for opportunity to reach the postseason
- Penguins’ Crosby details his mumps experience
- Pederson’s 2nd tenure as Pitt AD comes to abrupt end
- Judge dismisses littering charge against City Council president Kraus
- 2 longtime Pittsburgh nonprofits agree to merge
- Regional public data center work under way with help from foundation’s $1.8M
- West Virginia notebook: Trickett cleared to play in bowl game
- Inspections will force Liberty Bridge lane closures on Friday
- Jury finds Beltzhoover man who shot 60-year-old woman in the eye guilty of attempted homicide
- Generous Leechburg boy receives Christmas surprise from secret Santa