I grew up in New York City during the 1970s and 1980s, eating out and drinking regularly several nights a week. I vividly recall what it was like to be near smokers, whether it was my friends sucking down cloves at the bars (we were 14), weird old men immersed in a smoky haze at the local coffee shop, or grandpa Ed lighting up a cigar at the fancy seafood joint (he gave me the band to wear as a ring, so I was cool with it).
I never liked smoke or smoking, but the law didn’t forbid it back then and people just accepted it as a part of our culture, like being near a smelly person who doesn’t use deodorant. What are you going to do? Outlaw that? Part of the ritual of going out was coming home smelling like smoke - and hoping no one would light up at a good restaurant and impose cigarette smell on the rest of us.
A few days ago, a related debate emerged: Should e-cigarettes be banned from restaurants? The topic has ruffled feathers among smokers, diners, servers, restaurateurs, chefs...and lawyers. My first reaction was: No one will be able to ban these contraptions, no matter how unsightly they are unless they can prove that e-cigarettes directly interfere with the customer experience or worker health.
And from what I can tell, e-cigs don’t smell awful, don’t invade clothes, and don’t leave ash or stubs or even smoke. Yes, they look a little silly, but if it helps someone stop real smoking (which is harmful for many reasons beyond the fact that there’s nicotine in the product), then who cares if someone lights up one of these pretend smokes? They’re like toothpicks in that respect, and you can’t ban tacky.
Below are some facts that shed light on the issue. Personally, e-cigs remind me a lot of chewing gum. I wouldn’t use the stuff in a nice restaurant, but I also wouldn’t advocate banning the practice outright.
E-cigarettes don’t stink
E-cigarettes are kinda green in theory
E-cigarettes are tacky and dorky
E-cigarettes have nicotine but none of the other harmful ingredients of normal cigs
The law is murky
E-cigarettes may keep smokers from leaving the table and smoking outside
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