Hit & Run

Chicago's (Legal) Smokeasy

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As a smoking ban takes effect this week in Chicago, a subsidiary of R.J. Reynolds has opened an upscale cigarette lounge there. Although the Marshall McGearty Tobacco Lounge also serves alcohol, snacks, and coffee drinks, it's exempt from the ban (which at any rate does not cover bars or restaurants with bars until July 2008) because it counts as a "retail tobacco store," defined as a business that gets at least 65 percent of its revenue from selling tobacco or tobacco accessories. Predictably, antismokers are complaining that, although the place complies with the letter of the law, it does not comply with its "spirit," inasmuch as it allows people to relax in a pleasant environment and enjoy a cigarette. They also worry about the lounge's impact on impressionable young people. "It's trying to get an 18-to-25 demographic here, to make smoking seem desirable, attractive, like a secret club," says Bronson Frick, associate director for Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights.

First people like Frick campaign to banish smokers from virtually every indoor location; then they complain that the few remaining sanctuaries have the aura of "a secret club." This is like prohibitionists complaining that speakeasies make drinking seem cool.