Divide and Conquer


Seventy municipalities in Massachusetts, including Boston, have banned smoking in restaurants and bars. Now a statewide ban looks almost inevitable, as even the bar owners' trade group is giving up the fight.

"We will not oppose a ban and we will not support it, which is a change in our position, to be honest with you," said Peter Christie, president of the alliance of restaurant, bar, and nightclub owners. "If you look at the population and the amount of restaurants that are in those 70 communities, it's pretty substantial."

"With Boston's decision, we felt we were at a point where there was a critical mass," said state Representative Rachel Kaprielian, a Watertown Democrat championing the statewide restrictions. "There is the political reality that there should be a level playing field among communities that are adjacent to each other. This would do that."

So here's the basic divide-and-conquer strategy for how to take away, on a statewide basis, the rights of bar owners and patrons to make their own choices about smoking:

1. Fight to give local governments the power to ban smoking in privately owned establishments because "local control will allow for ample debate at the local level as to whether a smoke free ordinance is right for a particular city or town."

2. Once a critical mass of municipalities passes a ban, shift the argument from the need for "local control" to the need for "a level playing field."

3. Glide to victory once the bar owners' lobbyists throw in the towel because of their divided membership.

NEXT: Veggie Tale

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  1. Local health nazis are trying the same strategy in Nevada, of all places. First, antismokers got an “advisory question” on the local ballot, asking the Legislature to do something to “protect children” from exposure to secondhand smoke. It passed by a landslide, of course. Armed with this mandate, antismoking types are now going to the Legislature to ask it to allow counties to set their own smoking policies (currrently, that must be done by the Legislature). The casinos will fight this measure, big time (after all, if you can’t smoke at the craps table, what fun is that?), but their united support may not be enough to stop the health freaks.

  2. This is what happens (and will happen) when liberties aren’t protected from the top down. Give local jurisdiction for a ban, then argue about a “level playing field” to enable the State to expand the ban, and soon what we end up with is an omnipresent tyranny of the majority. Enjoy your smokes, your drinks, your SUV, your mace or CS/pepperspray, your Cheesyburger, your carphone and your freedom to think, feel and speak while you still can.

  3. I hate cigarette smoke when I go to restaurants and bars but I know what I am getting into when I go. I can’t believe people allow these laws to be passed.

  4. So hold the “debate” locally to give local governments the power to ban smoking. Then, in the interest of level competition (i.e. so that Boston patrons don’t simply drive down the road to another town to a bar), insist that the state ban smoking. The next logical step is to take the level competition argument a step further and ban smoking in neighboring states, so that a Massachusetts patron doesn’t simply cross the state line into Connecticut to smoke in a bar. This, boys and girls, is how a local power grab by a local government becomes a state power grab and, ultimately, a national power grab. I hate cigarette smoke as much as the next non-smoking guy, but this, friends, is ridiculous.

  5. So the next ‘niche’ business that someone needs to start is a ‘smokehouse’ that coincidentally serves food and drinks. This is kind of what happened when NYC tried to get rid of the red light district theaters.

    Good thing is people are good at finding loopholes. Bad thing is, it will make the antismoking groups push for complete bans on ‘public’ smoking.

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