2003-04-05 / Columnists

On The Beach

With Beverly Baxter
I Know It
On The Beach With Beverly Baxter I Know It’s Bad, Butt…

With Beverly Baxter
I Know It’s Bad, Butt…

With Cinderella-like precision, at the clock stroke midnight, the law was im-plemented as ashtrays were promptly removed, and smokers everywhere were told to butt-out! It was the count-down to a new year’s eve when at 12:01 last Sunday, the new Smoking Ban went into effect.

"Just one more puff," pleaded a relentless smoker as he engaged in a tug-of-war with the bartender for the much-coveted ashtray, which has now become a kind of "contraband", paraphernalia indicative that a cigarette must be near. Smokers everywhere must now go undercover!

I have many issues with the new ban. For one, it’s hypocritical. How can the city and state have the right to ban the use of a product that is legal?!  Oh I’m sure I get it! You’re free to legally buy it, pay the ever escalating added tax on it, you can smoke, but just don’t exhale—anywhere in public.

Whether you’re Dan Tubridy, who just smoked his last cigar on the premises which he owns; a Joe Camel-type who likes to light-up with a brew, or a lady who enjoys her Virginia Slims at High Tea in The Oak Room at The Plaza, public smokers are, pardon the pun, a dying breed.

The Health Department Law, which is being implemented to protect Labor, is rather ridiculous with regard to those who CHOOSE (key word) to work in a pub. More often than not, those who chose to work as a Bar-tender are mostly smokers. I know the Law is a good one. After all, we all know smoking is bad; but what one chooses to do with their body and their health is their business. And in an environment where perhaps all of the employees happen to smoke, then the Law is mandating one’s right to choose what to do with their body. I know of one local establishment that boasts a 300 square foot "smoke room"; however, the employees are legally unable to enter the room. While Bartenders watch, with envy and a real physical craving, customers rally back and forth between the bar and the smoke room. Since employees are not allowed into the smoke room,  there is also the issue of supervision. But proprietors soon won’t have to worry about that. Although Councilman Joseph Ad-dabbo voted against the ban, Assem-blywoman Audrey Pheffer voted in favor of it. The vote in the State Assembly supercedes the City Council vote; and as of July 1st, "smoke rooms", where they may now exist, will become obsolete.

Elaine Kaufman, Proprietor of the world-renowned Elaine’s on the Upper East Side, has long been a vocal opponent of the ban. Her idea, would give one the option to CHOOSE whether or not one wants to work in a smoking or non-smoking establishment. It would also give the customer the choice. It seems that the word "choice" is what’s at stake here. We live in a society that allows a woman the right to choose, an eighteen year old to choose to enlist in the armed forces, and for one to choose to stand in protest of the war; yet while our men and women are fighting to protect these freedoms, we elect Ma-yors and Legislators who feel its their right to choose to take them away; and if you allow them to purge these freedoms that we hold so dear, then we better ask ourselves, "What are we fighting for?"

See you....On the Beach! (Oh, but don’t even think of smoking. It’s against the law there too!) 

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