Thursday, February 5, 2009

What Say You, Dallas?

In a time of budget shortfalls in Dallas, all that irritation about Dallas becoming a nanny state with its raft of smoking bans may dissipate like so much Marlboro smoke, experts say. According to an Associated Press article today, many municipalities that just last year were discussing smoking bans or beefing up existing smoking bans have tabled the discussion because of the possible drop in tax revenue that would come from masses of people receiving just one more reason - besides saving money - to stay home and cook and drink as opposed to hitting a restaurant or bar for a night out. In other words, there are some cities out there that have decided that a wholesale ban of smoking could be knee-jerk and ill advised. Sure, the ban makes some constituents happy, but you know what makes more constituents more unhappy? Not having city services they've become accustomed to, or seeing those services reduced because of budget concerns. Long Beach, Calif., is mulling over the possibility of easing restrictions it already has in place. Kansas is finding passing a smoking ban to be a contentious issue. And, as the AP article explains, Atlantic City, N.J., Colorado and Wyoming are also having longer discussions about possible bans. I still say that cities are missing a huge revenue opportunity. Instead of banning smoking altogether, why not create a smoking establishment permit. It could be a set, uniform fee - or a fee based on a percentage of yearly or quarterly receipts. The permitted restaurant or bar can put their certificate near the entry, which alerts nonsmokers who feel strongly about it that it's an establishment that allows smoking, and they can choose to go elsewhere. The permit could possibly even be contingent having extra ventilation. It seems like it would be a way to make nearly everyone happy, and even help generate some additional revenue for the city. It also allows the businesses to make the decision themselves to allow smoking, and allows patrons to make up their minds themselves about where they'd like to eat or drink. Anyone else have any suggestions?