I must respond to the letter from Oren M. Spiegler of Pennsylvania and your editorial reply from the February 2004 issue. I believe you all are missing the main point. The issue has nothing to do with nonsmokers and cigar smokers "getting along" or about ventilation systems. I do believe we can get along—we've been doing it for decades in New York City—and that ventilation systems do work. But what it really has to do with is freedom and choice and the rights of owners of establishments and their customers. In New York, our mayor used the health of employees of establishments as the crux of his campaign to deny people choice. He says that he is a Republican, but he doesn't seem to understand even the most basic tenet of Republicans. That is: get government out of my life and business, and everything will be fine.
If I wish to spend my hard-earned dollars on a dream to own a smoky jazz bar or cigar bar, that is my right. If no one wishes to work for me, or customers don't wish to grace my establishment with their presence and their money because of the smoke, I will suffer the consequences. I will either pay for it to exist solely for me—to sit alone in my own empty establishment—or go out of business.
We all know that I would have no problem staffing such an establishment or securing a great clientele. But for the government meddling in my business, I would do just fine. First, as to the bogus assertion of employee health and safety, working in a coal mine and painting in an auto body shop are unquestionably hazardous jobs —I choose not to work in those jobs—but someone is still doing them. I am aware that exposure to loud noise will impair your hearing, but I still occasionally attend concerts because I like live music.
Second, I have yet to see one death certificate that lists as the cause of death, secondhand smoke. If the government is so worried about my health, what is next, mandatory limits on the consumption of Big Macs? The Eat Your Greens Police? Mandatory gym time? I don't frequent vegan and juice restaurants and they don't partake in steak and cigars like I do, and that's OK. The government should let the owner, the employee and the customer decide what they wish, and the Darwinism of capitalism will sort it all out. But never try to take away the important element and best part of this great country—freedom.
Finally, in a cash-strapped, post-9-11, city and state like New York, we have a huge opportunity to raise millions in revenue by allowing the New York State Liquor Authority to offer tobacco licenses. The Authority can put up "Smoking Establishment" warning signs and regulate ventilation systems to inform and protect employees as well as customers. We're talking about millions of dollars of revenues a year. The city and state get much needed revenue, the establishments get to keep their clientele and, even better, we all get to keep our right to choose and our freedom.
Ronald E. McCarty
New York, New York
Editor's note: Well said. We all have to keep the fight alive. Maybe someday, reason will win out.