March 27, 2007 3:53PM

Va., Md. to Require Smoking in Restaurants

As reported in the Washington Onion:

RICHMOND — Virginia governor Tim Kaine (D) proposed yesterday to require all of the state's restaurants to allow smoking. He stopped short of seeking a wider smoking mandate for most workplaces and public spaces, as some advocates had wanted.

The Kaine proposal comes as Maryland lawmakers are pushing ahead with legislation to mandate that smoking be allowed in all bars and restaurants in that state. Lawmakers must reconcile differences between separate bills passed by the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates, including the process by which businesses could seek hardship exemptions from the law. Maryland governor Martin O'Malley (D) has said he would sign a statewide mandate.

"This is a great day for both restaurant patrons and workers," said Kelly Bassler, president of the Mid-Atlantic Smoking Coalition. "We applaud both Maryland and Virginia for taking leadership in this very important issue."

William Lucas, president of the Virginia Chamber of Business, warned that the smoking mandate could "destroy commerce as we know it. We are still studying it with the recognition that free choice in the marketplace is always our preference."

Can you believe that Virginia and Maryland lawmakers think they have the right to force all restaurant and bar patrons and workers to adopt the smoking preferences of one group of people? There are plenty of bar and restaurant entrepreneurs who are willing to provide nonsmoking establishments, and plenty of workers who are willing to staff those places, and plenty of nonsmokers (like me) who are willing to patronize them — so why is government prohibiting the market from separating into sub-sectors that cater to nonsmokers and to smokers? Why can't we nonsmokers have our places and smokers have theirs?

It is utterly outrageous! Where's the respect for individual choice? Where's the respect for different preferences? How dare some people force their choice on everyone else in every bar and restaurant in the state! What rotten, dirty, no-good...

...what's that? What's that you say? I have it backwards — Virginia and Maryland are considering statewide smoking bans?

Well, same difference—

(My apologies to the Washington Post.)