I am not a smoker. In the past, when I worked the second shift, and my office workspace had a smoking cloud hanging over the ceilings, I was one of the most vocal proponents against the ability of smokers to pollute my office workspace. When the ban came against smoking inside of an office building, I was in total agreement.

So you would think that I would be the biggest supporter of the new Illinois law to ban smoking in restaurants, bars and workplaces that took effect Jan. 1. I am not, and let me tell you why.

I can agree that smoking shouldn’t be allowed in an office workspace. There is nothing intrinsic with working in an office and having people who smoke there go hand-in-hand. But when it comes to restaurants, bars and casinos, I believe the individual owners should be the ones responsible for setting standards in their establishments – not our state legislators.

You see, those of us who don’t smoke also have the option of choosing to not go into any restaurants, bars or casinos filled with smoke. Smokers should have the right to go into those same places and puff away. But our state legislators who always know what is best for us (yeah, the same ones who can’t pass our state budget on time) have determined that smoking in public, even at the beach, is now against the law. Yet, those same folks are the first ones to put more taxes on cigarettes while turning around and banning where people can or cannot smoke. What hypocrites!

I recently had a very stimulating conversation with my cousin about this smoking ban. He is an ex-smoker and is now on a holier-than-thou mission to sing the praises of this new law. After ranting for several minutes about all the reasons that the ban is the best thing than can happen, how he was sick of smelling cigarette smoke in his clothes and he can now enjoy his food without having to smell someone’s else smoke, I asked him this question: If opening a non-smoking restaurant, bar or casino is such a lucrative proposition, how come we haven’t heard of it being done before this ban?

Think about it. Most nightclubs have some sort of gimmick to get people to go there. You have martini bars. You have topless bars. You have bars devoted to rock, disco, blues and soul music. You have bars that claim they are for those who love sports. Yet, I can’t for the life of me recall a single bar or entertainment nightspot which made its claim to fame (and stayed in business to boot) as a “non-smoking” establishment.

I remember in the late 1970s, the Nation of Islam opened the original Salaam Restaurant at 83rd and Cottage Grove. I went there only once for dinner. The food was excellent, the service impeccable, the décor magnificent and the entertainment fabulous. But they didn’t get the support of the community. Why? Because they didn’t allow smoking and drinking.

Let’s be realistic. Gluttony is a vice. Drinking is a vice, and so is gambling. So why are we surprised that smoking, which is an additional vice, don’t all go hand-in-hand? Plus, since our state legislators have taxed cigarettes to the point that a pack can cost close to $10, who will make up for the revenue if smokers stop smoking? The rest of us, for sure. And that makes me mad. Once any project is funded, our legislators are reluctant to stop the funding. So if one of their pet projects was being funded by cigarette taxes, and fewer people are smoking because of the ban people, our legislators will now tax the rest of us to make up the difference.

If our state legislators’ intent is to ban smoking, then why not stop the sell of cigarettes completely? In the meantime, whether you smoke or not, the intrusion of government into our personal lives is at a point where we should not tolerate it. Today, the ban is on smokers. Tomorrow, it may be on something you like to do.

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