Smoking Ban Can’t Come Soon Enough
Steve Adubato, Ph.D.
Consider these staggering numbers. Nearly 1.2 million New Jerseyans
smoke. Almost 2,000 New Jersey teenagers become smokers every day.
Each year in our state, 11,000 die from tobacco-related causes.
And as for the argument that smokers are only wreaking havoc on
their own bodies, consider this: $2.5 billion is spent on direct
medical expenses related to smoking, which doesn’t even include
the impact of secondhand smoke.
Further, employers are getting killed by their workers’ smoking.
According to the New Jersey Department of Health, tobacco costs
New Jersey employers and workers $2.2 billion annually in lost worker
productivity. All these numbers are just the tip of the iceberg
at how devastating and disgusting smoking is to smokers and those
So for those of us who have been railing against smoking and trying
to warn of its dangers, New Jersey’s new law banning smoking
in all public places (except cigar clubs and casinos) can’t
be signed soon enough. Governor Dick Codey will sign the bill next
week and the law will take effect in April. This is a tremendous
victory but it has taken far too long. For too many years workers
and customers in restaurants, bars and other establishments have
been subjected to secondhand smoke and dangerous carcinogens all
because those who are nicotine-addicted believe they have some sort
of convoluted “right” to blow smoke in other people’s
Predictably, smoker’s rights groups are up in arms, livid
that the smoking ban in public places is soon to take effect. They
say things like, “Smoking and drinking go together,”
or “My neighborhood bar is like my second home. I should be
able to do what I want there.” They also accuse the government
of being too “intrusive” and trampling their rights
as citizens to do as they please. These arguments are absurd. The
neighborhood bar is not your home. Relax, smokers, you will still
have the right to smoke in your own home, even if it effects the
health of other family members, including your own children.
As for smoking and drinking going together, think about that. Drinking
and fighting sometimes go together as well, but we also have laws
against punching someone in the face in a bar. It’s called
assault. Sometimes it is even called attempted murder and the fact
that you are in a bar drinking doesn’t make it okay, does
And about the government being too “intrusive,” and
trampling your rights, that’s a funny one. Local health departments
don’t let you spit on the floor or table in a restaurant,
because it’s not only disgusting but it could potentially
impact those around you. It’s why you don’t have the
right to yell “fire” in a crowded theater, because it
puts other people at risk. Any way some smokers try to spin it,
you simply don’t have the right to put other people and their
health at risk, just because you want to do it to yourself.
So finally, the legislature and our outgoing Governor Dick Codey
have stepped up to put an end to all this insanity. New York City
did it several years ago when many said it couldn’t or shouldn’t
be done. So as is sometimes the case, we in New Jersey do something
positive in the shadow of New York, but it’s better late than
never. I do have some empathy for businesses who argue they may
be hurt by the smoking ban, but the fact is, any business whose
economic model is based on the ability of patrons to put the health
of other patrons at risk is seriously flawed.
Smoking in restaurants and bars never should have been allowed
in the first place, but the tobacco, liquor and restaurant lobbies
were simply too strong for too long and had a strangle hold on legislators
who were afraid to stand up and do the right thing. There may be
some short-term economic impact to certain bars and restaurants,
but the “ventilations” systems that were set up to protect
non-smoking customers were never adequate. The idea of “separating”
smokers from non-smokers in restaurants was laughable at best. It’s
as if we expected all this nasty smoke to make a u-turn or evaporate
just as it was getting to patrons whose lungs were clear and wanted
them to stay that way.
Simply put, smokers have been allowed to do what they should have
never been allowed to do for way too long in the first place. It
was wrong then, and as we’ve learned more about the dangers
of secondhand smoke, it’s even more wrong now. For me and
millions of other non-smokers who just want to go to a restaurant
with our families and enjoy a meal without smoke in our faces and
smelly clothes when we get home, April can’t come soon enough.
Let the smoking ban begin and let us finally start clearing the
air in the “Garden State.”
Steve Adubato, Ph.D. is a commentator, lecturer and former state
legislator. Dr. Adubato is also an Emmy Award-winning television
anchor and syndicated columnist.
He can be reached by fax (973) 509-1659 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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