Can I sit here and argue that smoking is some sort of inalienable right that has no negative effect on society? No, I cannot.
But can I argue that the ban is another example of big government's obtrusive disrespect for the rights of individuals and business owners to make their own informed decisions in regards to the lives they live and the way they live them?
I don't know; I hope I can still argue that - we'll see if I'm not whisked away to some re-educational gulag for daring to question our government in the post-9/11 era.
Smoking itself is not the issue; the fact that people (myself included) just accept the inevitability is what's most unsettling. Since N.J. apparently stands for New York Junior, I guess we should have seen it coming - and most of us did.
New Jersey, particularly Hudson County bars, saw a nice boost in business once New York enacted its ban. When the New Jersey law takes effect on April 15 it'll be unlikely to see any dramatic shift, unless there's a sudden massive exodus to Pennsylvania on Friday and Saturday nights. Maybe New Hope could be the next Hoboken since it's right across the river - the Delaware River.
Of course a lot of people take issue with the date of the ban being April 15, a date traditionally affiliated with the government strapping on its big ol' rubber glove and "milking the prostate" of the American people.
But while I criticize the state government for being too overbearing, on the other hand I have to question local governments' failure to act. There are a lot of bars in Hudson County, and a lot of those bar owners have a lot of questions about the enforcement of this law, particularly in conjunction with enforcing other current laws on the books that scrutinize their businesses.
For example, Hoboken frowns upon a line outside a bar. But what happens if there's no line, but rather a group of bar patrons gathered outside for a cigarette - an issue that has prompted much discussion in New York Senior.
Also, Hoboken enforces a one-way door on Friday and Saturday nights between 2 to 3 a.m. The one-way door means you have to be in a bar by 2 a.m. and if you leave for any reason, once you're out you're out. This slows the flow of drunks on the street at closing time to more of a trickle. But what if patrons are merely stepping outside for a cigarette - are they still subject to the enforcement of the ordinance?
And if so then what is to be done about the potential emptying of bars onto sidewalks at 1:55 a.m. for that last cigarette? Does the local government plan on informing these businesses and their employees, or are they simply going to go around and fine them for violating one ordinance while enforcing another?
I guess we'll find out soon enough. In the meantime, an unofficial poll indicates that smoking in bars is on an upswing recently since a lot of people are trying to enjoy it while they can.
Of course this brings up the question of when, in fact, will the smoking ban goes into effect. Is it the start of business on the 15, or at the stroke of midnight? Will the Department of Health SWAT descend upon New Jersey's bars with ticket books in hand looking for the faintest smell of smoke in the air?
Call me paranoid, but it's probably only a matter of time before you can get arrested for being drunk in a bar... Oh, right - it already is in Texas!!!
Christopher M. Halleron, freelance writer/bitter bartender, writes a biweekly humor column for The Hudson Current and websites in the New York Metro area. He spends a lot of his time either in front of or behind the bar in Hoboken, New Jersey where his tolerance for liquor grows stronger as his tolerance for society is eroded on a daily basis. Feel free to drop him a line at email@example.com.