Monday, December 8, 2008

Up In Smoke

You may remember the movie. The opening scene with Strother Martin's monologue:

"When, boy when are you going to get your act together?
Oh good God almighty me.
I think he’s the anti-Christ.
Anthony. I want to talk to you.
Now listen
Don’t walk away from me when I’m talking to you."

In 2009, Jerry Black, a state senator from Shelby, could well be Anthony. [OK. . . perhaps only in terms of the tight script cited above.]

Seems as though Jerry wants to set the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act on its head.

The public in Montana might be mumbling Martin's words before too much longer.

In 2005, the Legislature got its act togehter and banned smoking in public places starting on October 1 of that year. Because of the uproar from small mom and pop establishments, the ban on smoking in stand alone casinos and bars was delayed until October 1, 2009.

The moms and pops had nearly four and one-half years to prepare for the ban. But, now it seems, they don't want to ban smoking in their places at all. As many as 1,400of these places could be exempted from the ban if Black succeeds.

“I think I have to do this,” Darrell Keck, a steakhouse-lounge-casino owners from, you guessed it, Shelby, said. “I don’t really believe this is a smoking issue. It’s a property rights issue.”

There is the code for the wacko fringe: "property rights issue."

No. We sure wouldn't want to deprive owners of their property rights and patrons of their smoking rights.

Bans?!! We don’t need no stinkin’ bans. Burp.

Keck is quite quotable. The story continues:

Unless the law is changed, Keck predicted it will dramatically affect life in small towns, eliminate some bar and casino jobs, cut state tax revenues and deprive smokers of their rights.

“People don’t go into a bar for their health,” Keck said. “If that were the case, I guess they’d be serving booze at the health clubs.”

Black’s bill draft has fired up the same coalition of public health advocates who helped pass the clean indoor air act in 2005. It includes cancer, lung and heart association groups.

To think the Legislature could be so insensitive. The nerve. Our rural way of life is disappearing and all it wants to do is drive a stake into its heart?

Never mind non-smoking patrons and the employees.

Smoke! Smoke! (That Cigarette)

In a game of chance the other night
Old dame fortune was good and right
The kings and queens they kept on comin' around
Aw, I was hittin' em good and bettin' 'em high
But my bluff didn't work on a certain guy
He kept callin' and layin' his money down
See, he'd raise me then I'd raise him
and I'd say to him buddy ya gotta sink or swim
Finally called me but didn't raise the bet!

--Hmmph! I said Aces Full Pal -- I got you!
He said, "I'll pay up in a minute or two
But right now, i just gotta have another cigarette."

Don't worry. "Old dame fortune" will care for them.

The Montana Tavern Association, to its credit, opposes the effort to undo the good-faith compromise worked out in 2005. At least, Keck is willing to put his money where his mouth is. He has retained Jerry Driscoll and Dennis Iverson (Erik's father) to lobby on behalf of the bill. Price tag? $30,000. $30,000 for a bill that even Black says has little chance of passing. [I can hear Driscoll, a prolific smoker in his own right, laughing all the way to the bank.]

Numerous scientific studies have repeatedly documented the toxicity of second-hand cigarette smoke. One such study right here in the Capitol City in 2003 documented the dramatic drop in heart attacks during a six-month smoking hiatus in public places. Opponents of smoking bans picked at the study, but the study's overall conclusion was correct: There is a clear cause and effect relationship between smoking bans and reduced heart attacks.

The public and its representatives has spoken clearly on this matter. Clean air is about health. Any other characterization is a smoke-screen.

Jerry, aka Anthony, "Don't walk away when I'm talking to you. . . ."


Anonymous said...

Thank you for such a nice entry. I am not surprised that it is the small town community that argues they are losing their rights. After all this is the same group of individuals who did not want to do away with the ability to drive with an open container of alcohol in their car. That seemed to be an eastern Montana right of passage, so strong was the opposition to the open container law. And here they go again - the smoker has more rights than the non smoker? I am not sure about the reasoning here, is it because the smoker wants to die first or because they are afraid to die alone so they will take their drinking partners with them. It is also very interesting that taking away smoking in casinos or small town bars will cause a loss of jobs. Honestly I haven't seen a job specifically for a cigarette sales person in a drinking establishment since the movies from the 50's - wasn't that what the vending machines took the place of? And finally, removing the right to smoke from casinos and/or small town establishments will not decrease state tax revenues. After all, there will not be a decrease in actual smokers, merely a decrease in where they smoke. You are right most people don't go to a bar for their health, but they should not be dooming themselves to heart disease or cancer just because their neighbor can't take the cigarette outdoors.


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