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Columns  Ray Synkane  

Here’s a shout-out and a word for the State of New York: Hey! All you New Yorkers, before you pass that ‘No Smoking” ordinance, you better listen to this:
 I have spent the better part of a year hanging out at many various nightspots in Southern California, doing research for the novel on which I’m currently working.  As you know,
 California’s no smoking in bars and restaurants has been in effect for several years and the argument still rages on.  Despite the belief by some that the law has been a success, I don’t believe either side is seeing the whole picture.

 Passed under the sham of “
The health and well being of the general public,” the debate still revolves around two issues: the health of the workers and patrons inside versus the revenue lost by the proprietor’s owner and the tips lost by his employees.  What hasn’t been addressed is what is now going on outside of the establishment, i.e. the smoking section.

 As a pipe smoker, it takes me much longer to enjoy my habit than those who smoke cigarettes.  Because it takes about an hour to properly enjoy a bowl of tobacco, I spend about six times longer at a time outside than the average smoker.  It gets rough in the winter, and I often need to stuff a copy of LAWeekly under my jacket in an effort to stay warm.  But I reap the benefits of my patience by overhearing some fascinating conversation. 

 They usually
come out of the bar in pairs, lighting up quickly and sucking in the smoke they crave.  They also have lots to say to each other and, because they know their time is limited, they soon disregard the man with the pipe, who seems preoccupied with the flowers in the planter or some other distraction.  I have overheard the discussions of budding romance, arguments over who was supposed to be the designated driver, to confessions of eminent divorces.  While all of this may sound like harmless chatter, I have also noticed other things that aren’t near as innocent.

 For one thing, I’ve noticed that there are people out there who never go inside the establishment.  These people aren’t here to listen to a good band or have a drink or maybe a bite to eat.  These people have their own agenda.  California’s no smoking law has created an ideal environment for pimps, pushers and hookers to ply their trade. This law has provided a legitimate place to be. A place where the customer comes to them.  All they have to do is sit there, like me, and listen.  When they approach their victim, they know ahead of time that they have what the customer needs.

 As you read this, you are probably picturing a dark, seedy bar patronized by bikers and low-life's.  Let me disabuse you of this notion.  The illicit goings on I have described are happening at the finest, most prominent places in Southern California (
The dark, dingy bar patrons usually ignore the law and smoke inside!)  As a result of the artificial environment that this law has created, you’re health inside the bar isn’t compromised, but your safety outside the bar is.  Also, as a frightening footnote, I’ve also noticed that the “smoking section” is often frequented by underage youths, who aren’t allowed inside the bar (where the smoke isn’t) but can stand outside (where the smoke, hookers, pimps and drug pushers are).

“Ray, you ask me, “What’s the solution to this problem?”  Well, let’s see.  The owner could either hire security guards (at his expense) or ask for more police enforcement (at the taxpayer’s expense).  In some cities, such as Anaheim, for example, the police have thoughtfully found a way to offset the taxpayer’s expense by arresting patrons who come out for a smoke and are busted for being drunk in public!

 But have no fear, and listen up, New York, for your pal Ray does have an answer.  It’s really very simple: let’s ditch this idiotic law!  Common sense dictates that we leave the smoking policy to the discretion of the proprietor.  Who better than the owner of the bar to know his clientele and whether or not they mind a room full of smoke?  Why force a bar owner to make his customers “take it outside” when everyone in the place is a smoker?  There is a nice little Jazz club in Fullerton known as “
Steamers” that has been a no smoking establishment since it first opened—years before the law was passed.  Why?  Because the owner had the foresight to realize that the clientele he was trying to attract would appreciate clean air in the comparatively small room.

  Well, that’s my rant.  If you agree, or if you disagree and especially if you think you have a better way to solve this problem fairly, feel free to respond to this column by clicking.... Here. 

 Ray Synkane


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