The scene was the real estate Council’s annual FightNight bash at Dallas’ Hilton Anatole Hotel. Under bright lights in a warehouse-sized meeting room, a couple of boxers were slugging it out for charity in a raised ring, encouraged by cheering onlookers.
Many of them, not surprisingly, were sipping drinks and puffing on long cigars. This was a boxing event, after all, not a tea party.
Out in the lobby, meantime, they were even selling stogies. I bought one—a $15 Arturo Fuente—then repaired to the main room and proceeded to fire it up.
That’s when a little guy in a black suit who claimed to be a fire marshal came over and said to put it out—or get out.
“There are hundreds of people smoking in here,” I protested. “Are you going to tell them all to get out, too?”
He didn’t like the question much, adding evenly: “I’m telling you to get out.”
So I did what any quick-thinking, red-blooded citizen would do. I got out.
Welcome to the Brave New World of the anti-tobacco fascists. It’s a realm where common sense, property rights, and free-market choices are steamrolled in the name of “health” concerns.
Never mind that the harm caused by second-hand smoke—the latest preoccupation—has been wildly exaggerated.
Forget that private establishments catering to the public should have the right to say whether they’ll be smoke-free or smoking-optional.
Ignore the fact that big hotels like the Anatole depend on convention business, and that—news flash!—many convention-goers like to enjoy a cigar after their meal.
Nope. Smoking—in all its forms—has become so politically incorrect, you’re an anti-social boor if you even dare question the wisdom of do-gooder outfits like Smoke-Free Dallas.
It was that pressure group—made up of health organizations and medical professionals—that kicked off the current jihad to stiffen Dallas’ already-strict restaurant smoking ban last summer.
Aided and abetted by Mayor Tom Leppert and City Council members like Angela Hunt, the anti-tobacco forces are bent on stamping out smoking here wherever it’s found—even in cigars bars and pool halls, for Pete’s sake.
Indeed, by the time you read this, the council may have acted one way or another on tougher anti-smoking rules already.
At worst, it may have extended the city’s current ban to include bars, billiard halls, tobacco shops, parks, outdoor dining patios, or even vehicles carrying children as passengers.
At best, it might have killed or delayed a new proposal pending action on a statewide ban by the Texas Legislature.
However the issue is resolved in Dallas, it’s not going away. That’s because it’s indicative of something much bigger: the right of individuals, and businesspeople, to conduct their affairs without the hot breath of Big Brother on their necks.
The motive of the anti-smoking crusaders, I’m sure, is to have Dallas be considered a “progressive” city in league with the likes of New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Berkeley, Calif.
Well, this ain’t New York or San Francisco, yet; it’s Dallas-by-God-Texas, USA. And we really ought to tell the busybodies—and their advocates on the City Council and in Austin—to butt the hell out of our business.