I am an unusual reader of your fine magazine. I consider savoring a fine cigar to be one of the luxuries and delights of life, yet I am also extremely sympathetic to those, including myself, who detest the smell and smoke emitted from some tobacco products, and who are concerned about the effects of secondhand smoke.
I am dismayed that the tenor of your editorials and the content of many letters to the editor exude hostility to and contemptuousness of those who seek to limit our ability to smoke in public.
The antismoking side is absolutely right! While we, as residents of our great and free nation, have the ability to engage in the activity of smoking if we choose to do so as consenting adults, our rights end precisely at the point where the rights of others begin.
Although I thrill to my occasional treat of cigar and pipe smoking, I detest cigarettes, their foul odor and the effects of secondhand smoke from them, which any thinking and reasonable person cannot deny. I agree wholeheartedly that smoking must be prohibited in all public places, and rejoice over the fact that in many areas of the country, I can now go to restaurants and enjoy smoke-free dining. I wholeheartedly endorse the New York City ban and am appalled at the vilification of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who, on this issue, is absolutely correct.
I cannot imagine the gall of one who goes into a restaurant today and lights up a tobacco product in close proximity to others who may not wish to "share" it. An old advertising campaign of the Philip Morris Companies was that smokers and nonsmokers should coexist and that "courtesy" should resolve potential disputes. We found that there was no courtesy, that the all-powerful addiction to cigarettes trumps courtesy every time, necessitating some role for government in protecting the rights of the nonsmoking majority.
My state of Pennsylvania has not taken the step which other, more enlightened jurisdictions have in banning smoking in public, but we are bound to fall in line in the years to come. Why is it so difficult for so many of us to respect the legitimate right of others not to be exposed to what many consider to be our unhealthful stench?
Oren M. Spiegler
Upper Saint Clair, PA
Editor's note: We do not dispute the right of nonsmokers to dine and be in public places without the anxiety of smelling or breathing smoke. But the new laws go beyond just eliminating smoking. They prohibit the creation of rooms or zones where smoking is allowed. Why shouldn't a restaurateur be allowed to create a separately ventilated, enclosed area for smokers? That's where your argument loses steam with us; if you are willing to give nonsmokers their rights, why not create laws that give smokers their rights, too?
Summer did not officially start in the New York metro area until July, as it rained during most of May and June. July 4th weekend was a scorcher, and just the type of weather that everyone had been impatiently waiting for. I had the fortunate opportunity to sit in a park in Queens on July 4th, in the hazy, hot and humid weather smoking a Padrón Churchill. I was sitting in a park, and celebrating the sun. That night I watched fireworks at my grandmother's house in Nassau County, with a Maria Mancini Robusta Larga, and was proud to be an American. I was happy to be able to enjoy myself and my freedom, what with all of the geopolitical turmoil so widespread these days. That Saturday night, however, I met with opposition.
I had read that Nassau County had repealed its smoking ban in restaurants. Eager to relax with a fine smoke inside, I went to a lounge with my girlfriend. I politely asked the maître d' if I could smoke and he said that it was fine, but I had to sit at the far end of the bar. I had smoked there before on a big couch, but we sauntered over to a bar stool, and ordered drinks while I lit up my Maria Mancini Magic Mountain. Not even five minutes into it, the manager came over and asked me to put out my cigar because a dining patron had complained. It was after 10 p.m. The manager abruptly walked away, and I followed his orders. The maître d' came over and apologized and offered to buy the next round, and promised that I could relight up after the last diners had left. This softened the blow, but I did not come there to drink, I came to smoke. I paid the bar tab ($14 for two drinks) and left. My girlfriend and I drove back to Queens, where we found a restaurant with an outside patio. I smoked there but was afraid that I would be asked to stop, because there was an awning over part of the patio.
I was not annoyed about the incident in Nassau until Sunday. I was smoking a Fuente 8-5-8 outside, and started thinking. July 4th is a celebration of freedom. Independence Day is commemorating our rights as citizens. It is ironic, albeit sad, to me that my rights were violated. I have been enjoying fine cigars for over seven years, and from Niagara Falls to the Hamptons, to all five boroughs of New York City, to Albany, I have enjoyed my hobby. New York is a gorgeous state, and the people of New York are progressive. I am appalled that, suddenly, it seems as if New York is regressive. While it is true that Nassau County found its smoking ban to be unconstitutional, New York instituted a statewide ban in late July.
While it is a fact that metro New York has suffered from the deleterious events of 9/11, it should not mean that all citizens should have more constraints on them. I will, with much chagrin, say good-bye to the days when I was asked "smoking or nonsmoking" upon entering a restaurant. I will say good-bye, with much disenchantment, to enjoying one of my passions with my friends or family or alone. I will say good-bye, with much bewilderment, to some of my rights and freedoms. To me, that is a real shame, and everyone should be aware of this, if only to ponder or challenge it. I still have the right to voice my opinion and question authority; as a human being, as a free thinker, as a cigar smoker, as a New Yorker, as a U.S. citizen.
Commack, New York