Be a Better Neighbor

There was a recent article in the Burlington Free Press regarding Vermont bars and clubs and smokers blocking sidewalks and making a mess. The article and my comments are below…

[article begins]

Vermont bars and clubs owe it to their customers and neighbors to provide a suitable place to smoke outside the establishments. In some cases, smokers are blocking sidewalks outside bars, creating problems for passers-by and litter for someone else to clean up.

This is a new issue for many bar and club owners. The Legislature just passed a law banning smoking in these establishments to protect the health of customers and employees from second-hand smoke.

It’s a good law that sends an important message about a public health problem that costs the state millions of dollars and about 1,000 lives annually.

Burlington bars ought to be further along in planning for outdoor smoking. The city prohibited indoor smoking in May 2004, followed by South Burlington, Winooski and Williston.

However, some bar and club owners aren’t policing their smokers outside their establishment.

In some cases, smokers stand in groups outside the front door, blocking the sidewalk and dropping cigarette butts on the walkway or curb. People passing by are forced to either step into the street to pass or carefully wind their way through the crowd.

Most bars are more careful about their patrons’ smoking behavior, providing plenty of large ashtrays to prevent littering and even an out-of-the-way sheltered spot for smoking so walkways are not blocked.

The new law took effect Sept. 1, and many bar owners and private clubs are just beginning to tackle this issue.

They would be smart to take the time to create a safe place for their customers to smoke that doesn’t cause problems for their neighbors.

[end of article]

It sounds to me that many of the people for the smoking ban really ignored the issue discussed in this article. They fought hard to push people the smoke out of the bars where they belonged on onto the street and just ignored the fact that they would be smoking on the sidewalks and that the litter would increased and that people passing by would have to deal with it. Bars for as long as they have been around have always had beer and smoking. That’s what they have been for. First, the city attacked the bars forcing them to provide food so they became more like restaurants which basically forced the evolution of bars and restaurants becoming the same thing here in Burlington. Then they banned all smoking including chewing tobacco, which has nothing to do with second-hand smoking threats.

The article claims that the state loses millions of dollars and 1,000 lives annually. I believe these numbers to be simply false. There has never been any conclusive evidence that a death has been the direct result of smoking. It may be a contributor along with many so-called unhealthy habits such as eating too many carbs, fat, beer, salt, sugar and so on.

Getting back to the issue at hand, many of these bars and restaurants were not built or designed to accommodate outdoors areas for smokers as this whole idea was never conceived of in the United States before now. In the past, behavior modification by the government was never considered and was strongly discouraged, but is now considered common practice. How much more time before they start going after fat, salt and sugar?

The bottom line is that the government doesn’t like smokers, they don’t want them around and they want them to leave Vermont and shop and hang out elsewhere and by looking at increasing business being done by Vermonters in other states like New Hampshire, I think they’re getting the hint. What minority and form of intolerance will be next?

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