Reason triumphs over utter stupidity

When we look back in hindsight, we will see the ban’s opponents’ arguments for the craziness they are.

Bobak Ha’eri

Soon, the great smoking menace that haunts Minneapolis restaurants and bars will be no more. Sitting in a bar being hammered by the filthy, billowing fumes of doom will go the way of the dodo, and the dodos who want to keep on smoking can freeze their butts outside.

If you ask people in other parts of the country, “What do you think of when you think of Minnesota,” you get the initial “cold,” “snowy,” “accents” and maybe “white” – but if you kept pushing, you also get “health.” While this comes in large part from Mayo Clinic, there’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of in being seen as a bastion of healthy living.

When I moved here from the coast I was agog at the gaping holes in the model health code I expected. The two most surprising were the lack of a motorcycle helmet law and smoking permitted in restaurants and bars. Now, I can forgive the former: If you want to splatter your head like a cantaloupe on my fender, more power to you – it doesn’t harm me. But if you want to poison me with your filth, well Ö how do I put this? Hell no.

At last year’s Minneapolis City Council hearings, I heard arguments by the pro-secondhand-smoke lobby. It’s no surprise they had their rears handed to them. Their ideas boiled down into three arguments: economics, “patriotic” freedom and just plain crazy.

The economics people had the most cogent argument, but that’s not saying much. After all, you can put a dress on it and call it Charlene, but a pig is still a pig.

The idea is if you ban smoking in one area, people go to another area. It fails because there is no substantive data from any major city with a smoking ban to prove their claims. If New York city was able to survive a smoking ban – to say nothing of California – so can Minneapolis. Many will find themselves staying at bars later because the smoke isn’t there to tire them out. Bars will love this as people will likely spend more.

In fact, urban bars will continue to thrive. If you want to chill in the city, you go to Minneapolis, not Blaine.

The “patriotic” freedom folks somehow missed the boat on the Constitution, reading the word “liberty” to guarantee smokers the right to infect cancer on all those around them. One claimed he had just returned from Iraq, where he had been defending our right to smoke in bars.

Now, personal politics aside, I don’t think anyone involved with planning the situation in Iraq ever, ever had the notion of “let’s go stop Saddam’s weapons program so he won’t endanger our ability to give each other cancer.” But maybe it’s actually me just reading the Constitution wrong.

As for the just plain crazy arguments, look at the people still complaining now. Apparently the owner of Stub & Herbs thinks encouraging smoking will make her into some kind of patron saint for oncologists. I beg to differ. After a few weeks of smoke-free establishments, people will be looking at her blind arguments for what they are: crazy (in a funny-demented way, like the guy from “Sling Blade” before he killed people).

No doubt, some bars will suffer. Without the unpleasant, masking smell of smoke, patrons will realize many of their old bars smell like the bottom of a keg that’s been sitting in the sun over the weekend. This will lead bars to have to improve themselves to convince patrons to keep on coming. Dare I say it? We might have better bars because of it.

Bobak Ha’Eri welcomes comments at [email protected]