Could you repeat the question?

If there is one vote from the last election I wish I could take back, it would be my “yes” vote on Question 5. Q-5 is, for too many business owners, a heavy-handed pain in the ass.

Take your basic good-ole joint that’s been here for a while. Let’s call it Pistol Pete’s. It’s got a bar with a kitchen in the back and plenty of video poker. Who the hell am I to tell Pistol how to run his place? Specifically, who the hell am I to tell Pistol that he can’t have smokers in there lightin’ up?

Prior to the election, we already had a pretty nice, simple system in place. It’s called the law of the marketplace. If Pistol Pete has a great French dip sandwich and a lot of smokers, I can either, (1) go in, order the sandwich, and put up with the second-hand smoke, if I dare. Or, (2) I can say, by my consistent lack of attendance, “Sorry, Pete, but I just can’t handle the ashtray air in your place.” Pete’ll have to survive without me, and I have to go someplace else to get a good sandwich—which can be done. There are and will be plenty of restaurants that will cater to me and my people, the non-smoking majority. No law necessary.

I have to re-think how realistic it is for me to expect that places that serve food, alcohol and video poker are going to make a profit without smokers. Cigarettes and cocktails, I’m sure you’ve noticed, are often pursued in tandem. To take smoking away is to flirt with a serious loss of customers. If people are OK eating turkey sandwiches in a place where people are smoking at the bar, well, I guess that’s OK by me. Why wouldn’t it be? It’s a free country, right? Why should I want to take people who want to drink and smoke out of sports bars, taverns and bar/grills and send them to the only places left under Q-5 that will let them simultaneously do all the sinful things they want to do—casinos?

It’s a big hassle, ultimately, for businessmen and women who already have their hands very, very full when it comes to makin’ a buck. Sure, there are benefits to Q-5. Now, I can go into a sports bar and not have to worry about my life being shortened by 14 seconds due to an hour of exposure to second-hand smoke. OK, fine. But the money I bring into Pistol Pete’s once or twice a year can in no way offset the losses Pete now suffers because all of his video-poker-playing, Budweiser-swilling, Marlboro-huffing, twice-a-week regulars have gone to the Atlantis or the Silver Legacy or wherever to pursue their Trifecta of Sin. Bottom line—we just passed a law that makes it tougher for the little guys to get by and easier for the fat cats to fatten up. It’s as if we’re incapable of protecting ourselves from smoke, so we had to shove a law up the tailpipes of restaurateurs to do it for us. Oops. Duh. Sorry about that.