New Jersey's new smoking ban, which includes exemptions for casinos and cigar bars, takes effect tomorrow. The casinos say they need an exemption to maintain a level playing field with competitors in other states, while New Jersey bar owners complain that the exemption gives casinos an unfair competitive advantage. According to The New York Times, 11 states now have "comprehensive smoking bans" that apply to all indoor workplaces, including bars and restaurants, while "six others have less comprehensive smoking restrictions." The Times seems to have overlooked Arkansas, where Gov. Mike Huckabee last week signed a law that bans smoking in restaurants (unless they exclude custiomers under the age of 21) but not bars.
"There's probably some crying towels being passed out in the tobacco industry today," Huckabee said upon signing the bill. In truth, the tobacco companies have pretty much thrown in the towel when it comes to smoking bans, except when they own businesses covered by the laws. And if they should be crying because smoking restrictions will encourage smokers to cut back or quit, thereby reducing cigarette sales, Arkansas and the other states should be shedding even more tears, since the combination of excise tax revenue and lawsuit settlement payments makes them the industry's main shareholders.