Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public decide that, thanks to a little extra cash they somehow ended up with at the end of the month despite the cost of gasoline, insurance, groceries and so forth, a quiet dinner and a movie would be in order.
So they take off in the car, careful to find the nearest restaurant they can afford and burn only 1.286 gallons of gas. When they arrive there, the host shows them to a table marked "no smoking."
"Weíd like a smoking table, please," says Mr. Public.
"Iím sorry," says the maitre dí, "All our tables are non-smoking by law."
Mr. and Mrs. Public agree to dine at the restaurant anyway, but question the gentleman further.
"Look here," says Mr. Public. "Are you telling me thereís a law against smoking in restaurants?"
"Yes sir," says the maitre dí. "We are legally bound by will of the Louisiana Legislature and the Governor who have deemed your behavior as smokers illegal and subject to moral, social and judicial penalties."
"So," Mr. Public surmises, "Itís legal to sell cigarettes and the state collects the taxes on them, but illegal to smoke them in restaurants?"
"You may smoke in the video poker area, sir," says the maitre dí.
"Where the state also collects revenues, of course," Mr. Public notes. "The bar?"
The maitre dí nods. "No surprise there," Mr. Public notes.
Mrs. Public, who does not smoke, nonetheless comes to her husbandís defense. "What business is it of the state to legislate such a thing? If the sale of cigarettes is legal then so is the smoking of them. Free enterprise and economics takes care of the rest. If you, Mr. Restaurant Owner or Manager, find that your business is suffering by allowing smokers, you are free to prohibit it. Why do we need the state to meddle in it? Are the legislature and Miss Governess that bored? Donít they have better things to do, like hurricane protection? Like coastal rebuilding? Like jobs and industry and business?"
Mr. Public nods in agreement. "Of course, the obverse does not apply. If Mr. Restaurant Owner or Manager, if he finds a decline in business and a loss in profit because of the smoking ban, he cannot simply break the law and allow smoking. So the legislature has backed the small business man in the corner again in favor of special interest busy-bodies, while preserving their revenue sources all at the same time!"
Mrs. Public frowns sadly. "There may or may not be a danger in second-hand smoke. But so long as the sale of cigarettes is legal, and so long as people have a choice if they go into Restaurant A or Restaurant B, the legislature is doing nothing more than meddling in things they have no business in!"
The maitre dí looks left and right clandestinely. "It gets better. The legislature has voted themselves in the perk of having insurance for the rest of their lives."
"In case they get sick from second had smoke?" Mrs. Public queries.
"Apparently," Mr. Public says. "Thatís going to cost the public, how much?"
"Tens of millions as long as some of these jokers are going to live," Mr. Public notes sadly. "Only the good die young, you know. Doesnít matter, the governor actually woke up and vetoed it.
"Meanwhile," Mrs. Public says, "what is the special of the day?"
"Ah," says the maitre dí, "now thereís a happy subject. Today we have blackened catfish on a bed of angel hair pasta served with a crab cream sauce and steamed vegetables!"
"Weíll take it!" Mr. and Mrs. Public chime in unison. "With a glass of red wine each!"
The maitre dí looks horrified. "Red wine with fish? No, no, no, it must be white wine."
"But we prefer red."
"I am sorry, but Louisiana Statute clearly states white wine must be served with fish in all state restaurants."
"Does it really?"
"No, Iím just pulling your leg. But it wouldnít surprise you, would it?"
"Not in the least," says Mr. Public. "Do you suppose that in days to come weíll be legislating other things? Like, maybe, cell phone use in a moving vehicle?"
"Depends on how powerful the lobby is and how many hands get greased, I guess," the maitre dí says.
"Or how desperate a re-election bid may be," Mrs. Public agrees.