New York Cracks Down on “Smoke-easies”

From Jacom Sullum at Reason Magazine:

New York City is cracking down on “smoke-easies,” bars and clubs that let their customers light up despite a municipal edict that forbids such accommodation …  Because many of the targeted night spots are defended by nearly impregnable barriers of coolness, the health department “has deputized a team of inspectors—many of them younger and hipper-looking than the stereotypical bureaucrat—to work into the wee hours, posing as patrons and hunting for tolerance of smoking by clubs’ employees.”

Sullum refers to this article in the New York Times:

City officials have also moved to take several other clubs before the court, seeking to revoke their food and beverage licenses. It has been an open secret for years among the late-night set that there is a network of so-called smoke-easies throughout the city, from little neighborhood dives to glossy, exclusive boîtes, that let patrons smoke illegally.

Health department officials say that the vast majority of businesses comply with the 2002 law forbidding smoking in clubs and bars, but that inspectors have struggled to enforce it at a handful of high-end places that seem to market themselves as smoker-friendly, some even offering loose cigarettes for sale.

Generally, health officials have looked for signs of active tobacco use as part of their inspections concerning other rules, like those for food safety, and have cited clubs for violations that often result in fines of $200 to $2,000.

<snip>

“We found places with repeated nights of smoking, with sort of flagrant violations — selling cigarettes, clearly creating an atmosphere in which smoking appeared to be tolerated or even welcomed,” said Daniel Kass, the acting deputy commissioner for environmental health. “Those places are clearly not responding to the idea that we’re going to fine them periodically for violations.”

And the health Nazis march onward. Because they know what’s best for you, really, they do.

Isn’t it too bad that no one seems to remember the history of prohibition? I’m not sure how adding tobacco to the drug war is really going to help anything other than an excuse for government to get more involved in your business. But maybe that’s the point …

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