Cigar Aficionado

Smoking Politics

Got an interesting slant on smoking politics yesterday from Lewis Shuckman, who when not purveying caviar and other fish delicacies as owner of Shuckman's Fish Co. & Smokery is a guerilla warrior in the struggle for smokers rights in the Louisville area. Phone chatting with Lewis always involves an update on the absurdities of the legislative attempts to banish cigars. Yesterday, he relayed a discussion he'd had with a local councilwoman who is spearheading an attempt to ban smoking in Louisville restaurants and who—ironically— also represents Shuckman’s ward.

The conversation went something like this: Lewis suggests smoking should at least be allowed in designated areas in restaurants with Smoke Eaters. Councilwoman says, no, because smoke could still get in the kitchen and do its evil undocumented second-hand harm. Shuckman first reverts to sarcasm—"shudder to think that cigar smoke would somehow get onto some of the smoked turkey in the kitchen or some of my smoked salmon"—then forbids the councilwoman to comment on something of which she is evidently ignorant: the food service industry.

While that conversation devolved, ours didn’t. Lewis went on to say that apparently local landmark Churchill Downs will get protection from the law because a ban would make it hard for the home of the Kentucky Derby to compete with gambling venues just across the river, in Indiana, that allowing smoking. Lewis wondered why the same wouldn’t be true about restaurants that also must compete with eateries across the Ohio River. Hmmm…

Then he got to the heart of the matter. The ban, as with other similar legislation throughout the country, would compel owners of restaurants to enforce it. Now, Lewis ponders, why is a restaurateur required to police his patrons’ use of a legal substance, when he doesn’t bear the same onus with illegal substances or acts. A customer uses a forbidden drug in his restaurant and the owner won’t get fined, but light up a cigar and he is in legal jeopardy. You wouldn’t think of asking a restaurateur to disarm someone who carried an illegal weapon, but you would expect him to force someone to put out his cigar.

I think my friend Lewis makes a nice spoonfish caviar and an awful lot of sense.


"I can understand other diners not wanting to smell my smoke in their food, and I wouldn't impose on them in a closed restaurant. Also, I think the worst is the smell of cigarettes at a meal. If I can smoke my lovely aromatic cigars in the restaurant, they get to smoke their foul smelling nervous sticks there. But, outside is something else, and restaurants ought to be able to accomodate that. What ought to be limited is loud talking diners, whose conversation and laughter two tables away, interferes with the conversation, good food and drink at my table." —September 9, 2007 23:56 PM
"great story! yet another illustration of politics having absolutely nothing to do with common sense, data, or the public good. fortunately we have a constitution which blesses us with the freedom to expose incompetence and prejudice in public. in a perfect world, one would have to have run an actual business in order to make public policy regarding business. it's nice to dream... " —August 27, 2007 21:44 PM