As an allergy and asthma sufferer, I would love a world without cigarette smoke. Of a population of 300 million in this country, only about 46 million smoke (roughly 16% of the population), so why we have to cater to a noxious and disgusting addiction is beyond me, but I have to say, an outright ban on smoking in Erie establishments is not the cure-all everyone thinks it’s going to be. So before y’all start revoking my subscription to Allergy Buyers Direct, hear me out:

1. The smoking ban won’t solve the problem as much as it shifts the location of the problem: I moved to Maine in 2004 when the state-wide smoking ban went into effect, and while it was blissfully smoke free inside of all the establishments, it meant you had to run the gauntlet of smokers out side the front doors and all the way to the parking lots of such places, which didn’t make entering or exiting a very pleasant experience. You still had to cough your way through, and sidestep the litter. You still reeked upon entering the establishment and you (I anyway) still had to wash my hair and leave my clothes in the laundry room before going to bed.

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2. It opens a whole new can of worms: Let’s face it, smokers are also litterers. They leave their cigarette butts everywhere. If a person doesn’t have enough respect for their own body to give up smoking and respect the rights of others who have chosen not to smoke, what makes you think they’ll respect public property? What occurred in Maine is that cigarette butts are now everywhere on the sidewalks. No matter how many receptacles a business will purchase for the containment of that nastiness, smokers continue to throw their butts on the ground in complete disregard of anyone or anything. Local businesses there have gone to tremendous expense of cleaning up after these people and their filth. Of course an excellent revenue generator for Erie would be to have a night time patrol person who tickets smokers for public littering when they toss their butts anywhere other than in a trash can, but then Erie is not known for its inventiveness.

Weird fact: Bhutan, the country, went completely smoke free in 2004. Although an extremely low percentage of the public smoked, the government recognized it was an addiction of the poor and proverbially nipped the problem in the butt. It’s illegal to smoke in public and it’s illegal to sell tobacco. A resident could import tobacco but also pay a 200% tax for their troubles.

It’d be great for the Erie County government officials to get on the ball once and for all, but as we all know, they are a waste of tax payer money who can not get their heads out their asses: given that, as a non-smoker, I seek out establishments that offer a complete smoke-free environment. Places I would not have gone to otherwise, I now make sure I frequent because of that environment. Panos, Latinos, The Park Tavern, Bertrand’s, Petra, etc, all wonderful places I make sure I support because of their new policy. Business owners who wised up to the fact that it makes better business sense to cater to the majority rather than the minority. And now that Colao’s is smoke free, I’m making a point of getting a reservation for my father-in-law’s birthday dinner next week. And the bonus to all this? Smokers don’t go there. They tend to stick to where they can smoke, hence, I can traipse in the door odor free. It’s a win-win. I don’t have to see them, smell them, or sidestep the crap they leave on the ground. And they get the “benefit” of killing themselves in peace.

Yes, smoking is a public health issue and any smoker who argues against that is a complete and utter moron. But it is pretty clear that the smokers aren’t going to go away and the ban isn’t going to solve the problem in the way you might think. I’m perfectly content to let the business owners of this town figure out who they would rather have as a clientele: the nasty smoker who has a limited lifespan and less disposable income as their health tanks and the price of their addiction goes up, or the non-smokers.

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