Sunday, March 30, 2008

Where there's smoke

It's been over a year since health Nazis convinced voters to pass our statewide smoking ban.

For my wife and me, both smokers, going out to dinner hasn't been the same since -- so these days we rarely do.

It looks like we're not alone in waxing nostalgic over the after-dinner cigarette. Business is suffering at once-packed restaurants and bars. Even the courts and public-health officials are annoyed -- reportedly, every time a smoker appeals a $100 fine, it costs the government thousands of dollars just to make it stick.

A state statute designed, in theory, to protect us from ourselves and reduce health-care costs has, in practice, chipped away yet another right from free citizens, been bad for business, clogged the courts and cost the state untold millions.

One more big win for those who know best.

Last night, my wife and I climbed aboard the WABAC Machine when, by invitation, we walked into the smoke-filled atmosphere of a pub in a neighboring town.

Ashtrays graced the bar and tables. The front door was open to the main street, almost daring passers-by to call the county health department -- or to join us for a beer and a smoke.

An odd coexistence of civil disobedience and social intercourse, and it felt just right.

Such libertarian establishments are just as rare as further infringement of our freedoms is certain. Perhaps someday we'll untangle this increasingly repressive society but, sadly, the trend is moving in the opposite direction.