Puffing Takes Another Beating
Kevin Salwen on Culture
I grew up in a house of smokers. My father had a 3 1/2-pack a day habit; my mother was a night-time, relax-before-bed puffer. That was a long time ago, of course, and our mores have shifted dramatically in the U.S. and elsewhere. These days, it's hard to find an office building that allows smoking. Cigarettes are disappearing from restaurants and bars and now hotels are getting into the mix, with Westin announcing this week that its 77 U.S., Canadian and Caribbean properties will be smoke-free facilities. If the strategy draws little backlash, you can be sure that other chains will follow Westin's lead.
The benefits of all these moves to nonsmokers are obvious. Bye-bye to the smell, the smoke and most importantly the health risk.
But I find myself disturbed by the fallout from these blanket decisions.
-- First, the area outside most office buildings has become the smokers' corner; on nice days, when I want to eat outside, my sanctuary in the sun is often someone else's only option for a cigarette break. The outside has been taken over by smoke. As a result, I head back inside, stewing over my lack of rights to the outside.
-- Second, I can no longer make decisions where to bring my kids for dinner; in Atlanta, restaurants must choose between smoking and banning those under 18. Forget parental choice, this has been decided for us by the government. Some of my favorites spots are now out-of-bounds (despite the fact that the smoking section might be 200 yards away from where my kids are sitting).
Where does this all go? Do we start having smokers' restaurants? Do we have smokers' hotels? With 22% of the American population still smoking -- a shrinking number for several decades -- what economic impact will smokers have?