Smoking's Last Bastions

Smoking bans aren't big news any more. Actually, what I find more interesting than a city or state passing a new ban is seeing which ...
by | January 10, 2006 AT 3:00 AM

Smoking Smoking bans aren't big news any more. Actually, what I find more interesting than a city or state passing a new ban is seeing which businesses and industries are able to wangle their way out of it.

The latest is New Jersey, where the legislature yesterday passed a bill that bans smoking pretty much everywhere but in Atlantic City's casinos. Let me get this straight: smoking is harmful to health everywhere except at the craps table? I suppose one could argue that sin enjoys company. But it sounds to me more like Trump & Co. unleashed the lobbying hounds on Trenton.

To be sure, it's not always the politically-powerful that win exemptions from smoking bans.

Here in D.C., the city council exempted hookah bars--a type of shared-pipe tobacco haunt that most council members didn't even know existed before the ban came up.

I can understand this type of exemption: no hookah bar patron is unwittingly exposing himself to smoke. As with cigar bars, tobacco is the whole point of going in the first place.

Other exemptions, however, just don't make much sense. My colleague Zach Patton, who wrote about some of these odd loopholes in last month's Governing, tells me that bowling alleys and bingo parlors also frequently win exemptions from smoking bans.

Am I underestimating the political power of bowling alleys? Or are state and local officials just getting sentimental: Who could imagine bowling without smoking?

Right. And who can imagine not smoking on an airplane?