Although lawsuits to stop an indoor smoking ban lingered in the air like second-hand smoke last week, the supposed date of New Jersey’s proposed ban for bars and restaurants (April 15) approached, and local smokers were enjoying what they believed were their last puffs, from Secaucus to Union City.
The New Jersey Hospitality Industry for Fairness Coalition, a group including the New Jersey Restaurant Association and the New Jersey Licensed Beverage Association, had filed a suit against the state March 7 to stop the ban. They claimed that the law violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution by excluding casinos and cigar bars from the ban.
Regardless of the suit, local smokers inhaled indoors for what they saw as possibly their last chance to do so…forever.
Union City owner against ban
Kenia Guerra, owner of the Adoro Café on 38th Street in Union City, was concerned about the ban’s effect on her business last week.
“It’s going to bring down business,” she said. “We have a lot of smokers here that smoke while they drink. We’re going to feel it, definitely.”
Cammy O’Callaghan, owner of Dorrian’s Red Hand near the Newport Mall in Jersey City, had mixed feelings.
“The ban will hurt business in the first few months,” he said, “but I think most people will eventually come back.”
A native of County Cork, Ireland, O’Callaghan’s family has been in the restaurant business for over 100 years.
“It should be the decision of the owner,” O’Callaghan said. “If they want smoking, if they don’t want smoking, they should have the final say.”
But in May of 2004, Ireland passed a nation-wide law that prohibiting smoking in bars, restaurants, and enclosed public spaces. O’Callaghan, who doesn’t smoke himself, feels the United States is headed in the same direction.
“Everyone’s more health conscious today than they were,” said O’Callaghan, “and that’s a good thing. It’s only a matter of time before the states become like Ireland.”
‘When I came to America, it was free’
Some smokers resented the intrusion on their freedoms.
German-born Martin Koenig, the president of Rose International Freight Company and a Hoboken resident, said last week, “You can smoke in casinos, but you can’t smoke in your neighborhood bar. What’s the difference? When I came to America it was free. Now?”
Koenig was lighting up in Oddfellow’s Grill in downtown Hoboken.
Rich McCahill, a retired employee from the Secaucus Housing Authority, was lighting up at the Ideal House on Front Street in Secaucus. He said, “I can understand about second-hand smoke, but give people the choice. Let it be up to the bar itself. You can have a smoking bar here and a non-smoking bar somewhere else in town.”
McCahill added, “Tell me what the difference is if I have a cigarette at the bar here or have one with some dice in my hand in Atlantic City?”
Also at the Ideal House, Paul Pollack of Secaucus asked, “What’s next? They tell you where you can smoke, where you can’t smoke. I heard there’s a town in California where you can’t smoke any where outside your house. What, are we turning into Russia here?”
Dave Dougherty of Bayonne, who was lighting up in Oddfellow’s, remarked, “If I’m not going to be able to smoke here, I might as well go back to New York.”
What about the noise outside?
In addition to the grievances expressed by many smokers, some had practical concerns.
John Ernst, a musician and Hoboken resident said, “People complain about the noise outside now. Wait until people are out there smoking. People are going to be carrying their drinks, being loud. It’s gonna be a mess, especially in the summer.”
Lauren Kunisch, a waitress at the Ideal House in Secaucus, worried, “What happens when you go into some bar you’re not familiar with and you have to leave your drink at the bar to have a cigarette. Even if you have friends to watch it, you never know. Some guy could slip something in it without them seeing.”
Will make me healthier
Casey Hanson of Jersey City was at the Texas/Arizona bar in downtown Hoboken. She said, “I don’t smoke, but here when I’m drinking, I do. I know if they impose this ban I’m gonna smoke less, and that’s a good thing.”
Hanson added, “I don’t think people appreciate coming home and reeking of cigarette smoke because the guy next to them smoked all night, never mind the health risk. It’s gross. The whole thing is gross.”
Jessica Levine, a graphic specialist out of New York City who has lived in Hoboken for the past four years, agreed. “I love having a cigarette after a drink or after dinner, but it’s not good. Everyone knows how bad smoking is for your health. I agree with the law 100 percent.”
Thomas Rodriguez, a resident of Hillside who grew up in Hoboken, said, “I’ll probably smoke a lot less and drink a lot less, all around it will be healthier. I’m all for the ban.”
Bar, smoker both get $250 for first offense
The “New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act” was introduced by State Senator Adler on Oct 14, 2004. The Act declared that “tobacco is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the State and the Nation, and tobacco smoke constitutes a substantial health hazard to the nonsmoking majority of the public.”
When New Jersey proposed the law, it was planning to join New York and Connecticut along with seven other states that have similar laws. The law intended to prohibit smoking in all indoor public areas, such as bars, restaurants and private office buildings. The law also includes the property, both indoor and outdoor, of any public or nonpublic elementary or secondary schools.
Exclusions to the law are the gaming areas of casinos and cigar bars and lounges.
Both patrons and establishments will incur identical penalties if they are in violation of the law. Violators will receive a $250 fine for the first offense (both for the bar and the patron), $500 for the second offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
If a bar immediately asks a patron to leave or to put his cigarette out, they can avoid the fine. – MM