03 July 2006

What's good for R.J. Reynolds is good for America?

Coming out of Whole Foods today, I was approached by a dude in his twenties, teeth somewhere between Englishman and meth addict. He asked if I was a registered voter, and then started to discuss the initiative for which he needed signatures. I scanned the form, while only half listening to him. Titled the Non-Smoker Protection Act, I was momentarily hopeful.

Had the land of pickups and gun racks decided to make a bold leap forward? Were we going to join California and NY as places I could finally go to a bar? Not really. In fact, right there in the text, it specifically excludes bars. Prodded and poked, the Young One said he was here on behalf of bars that want to make sure smoking remains allowed. 'Cause nothing tastes so good as a cigarrette with a drink, he said.

So why the smokescreen? Why hang around Whole Foods collecting signatures for something called the Non-Smoker Protection Act? Who's backing this?

Big Tobacco is.

What's truly insidious about this ballot measure is that it would force a rollback in those cities that have pushed for full smoking bans - Tempe, Flagstaff, Prescott, and the like.

From the AZ Secretary of State's Initiative, Referendum and Recall Applications page:

The Arizona Non-Smoker Protection Act creates a balanced, reasonable, consistent, statewide non-smoking law, protecting minors and preserving private property rights. The Act will not raise taxes or create new government programs. The Act would prohibit smoking in enclosed public places and places of employment, except bars and tobacco shops. Minors are not permitted in any part of a bar or tobacco shop that permits smoking. Signs must notify patrons and employees where smoking is permitted. If part of a larger business, the bars and tobacco shops must be separated by floor to ceiling partitions and separate ventilation systems.
You wanna smoke, that's your perogative, but keep it out of my damn face. And don't tell me that bars and restaurants are going to go out of business - the research doesn't back that up.

If you're in AZ and want to vote for an initiative that would finally ban smoking in restaurants and bars, that would be the Smoke-Free Arizona Act
The Smoke-Free Arizona Act protects the right of Arizonans to breathe clean indoor air by prohibiting smoking in enclosed public places and places of employment. Breathing second hand smoke harms children, seniors and people with existing health problems the most. Enforcement by the Arizona Department of Health Services will be paid for by a tax on cigarettes of one tenth of one cent per cigarette. Limited exceptions are provided such as private residences, retail tobacco stores, and outdoor patios. No smoking signs will be posted in all areas where smoking is prohibited.