The answer, my friend, is breathing in the wind

Aside from the return of “American Gladiators,” the biggest change that I was looking forward to in early 2008 was the Illinois smoking ban. The ban not only serves as a healthy prod to get smokers to kick the addiction, but, more importantly, is more congenial to my personal hygiene.

When it comes to cleanliness, men have an important rule of thumb known as the “two day plus” law. This rule states that all articles of clothing, baring some undergarments, can be worn on the body for at least two days. Arbitration is handled by the almighty sniff test; if a shirt or pair of pants doesn’t cause the wearer to writhe in agony upon smelling it, then it is deemed fit to wear again.

Not being a smoker, I don’t find the scent of cigarettes particularly appealing. While at a bar, I can put up with the odor if I’m having fun. But, like those creepy old men who always sit and stare at the pool table and ogle the young women that walk in, I wish the smell would stay at the bar and not follow me home. When I arrive back at my place and subject my clothes to the sniff test, it’s like I had managed to take all the ashtrays in the bar and carefully dump their contents over every inch of my body. Unless I want to reek for the next several days, the two day plus rule goes out the window (as do my clothes). And unless I shower before going to bed, I get a lovely reminder of my trip to the bar or bowling alley for the next few nights because the smell transfers to my pillow.

Obviously, the lingering scent of cigarettes is only a short-term consequence of second-hand smoke. One of the main long-term consequences is death. Lung disease and cancer are proven killers caused by second-hand smoke. The ban also alleviates the annoyances caused to those with allergies. Personally, I’m still wheezing from the cats I encountered a week ago. While smoke doesn’t cause as drastic an effect, it’s still a potent allergen. So the smoking ban kills two birds with one stone – reducing the risk of disease and lessoning the annoyances of allergies.

Critics of the ban may say that it harms bar business because the smokers will no longer come out. I have a good friend in Minnesota where a smoking ban went into effect last year. As a frequenter of bars and restaurants there, he said that such establishments dwindled a little the first week, but after that they were back to normal. So far, from what I can tell, the same is happening in Illinois. People just go outside to smoke, and I can deal with passing through a cloud to get to the door instead of standing inside of it the whole time inside.

It isn’t just my personal experience that I’m using to justify the ban; there is a larger picture. Illinois is one of over a dozen states that’s sending butts outside. According to the New York Times, New York’s department of Health and Mental Hygiene found that the city’s bars and restaurants have prospered while the level of air pollution decreased six-fold. Another study conducted by the Center for Disease Control found that drink revenues did not decrease at all after the 2002 ban in El Paso, Texas.

I applaud the State of Illinois for its actions in following the lead of other states. As a non-smoking college student, I feel like it’s one less annoyance in my life. And with any luck, we’ll be seeing the addictions of cigarette-lovers soon go up in smoke (figuratively, of course!).

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