It's a holiday. It will likely rain. And yet, if you plan to spend the entire day drinking, you might have to get a little wet to get that nicotine buzz that your inebriated head is begging for.
I'm not a smoker, and the city I live in has already been non-smoking for more than five years. However, I can assure you that that is the thought process that many of the state's seasoned tavern crawlers are confronting today, as the statewide smoking ban takes effect.
Is there a valid justification for it? There's little more I can offer on the subject, except to say that, as an opponent of drug prohibition, the health of the employees in bars is the only reason I can accept without feeling hypocritical. You should not have to subject yourself to a hazardous work environment in exchange for a low-wage job.
However, I doubt the plight of Wisconsin workers was the motivating factor behind the law's realization. It was one of the reasons, but frankly, I don't think it was the dominant one.
Like most policy, the smoking ban is not based on principle, it is based on public opinion. Smoking is not cool anymore, in more ways than one. First, it's unhealthy, which means parents don't want their kids around it etc. Second, as smoking declines, so does tolerance for the smell of cigarette smoke, which people are less used to dealing with. What used to be a given part of every public situation is now considered by many people to be an unbearable nuisance.
That is likely why polls show a solid majority of the state supported the smoking ban.
I think this quote given by a bar owner in Fort Atkinson captures the contradiction of the public's position on the smoking ban:
"I totally think it should be at the owner's discretion," she said. "For me personally, I'm looking forward to it. I'm a smoker as well, but I am looking forward to it."
Even those who can't think of a reason why the state should ban smoking in private businesses nevertheless appreciate it. While this particular woman acknowledges that her preferences may not be grounds for the law of the land, frankly, many people don't make that distinction. It's the ongoing debate in politics of principle vs. practice. Will we sacrifice some of our liberties to keep us safe from...you name it: terrorists, unhealthy food, drugs.
It's not just the citizens who are hypocrites. Many of the politicians who so valiantly defend the of liberty of tobacco users would never dream of extending their logic to marijuana users. Similarly, those who support requiring Americans to buy health insurance for their own good may have vehemently opposed big brother measures taken in the name of national security.
Make sure to check out Ben Reiser's interviews with smokers on State Street.