The Rutabaga- Pillory Place: Council augments restaurant smoking ban
Reacting to public dissatisfaction with the light fine that accompanies the new restaurant smoking ban, just $25, Charlottesville City Council voted yesterday to begin a “pilot ordinance” of placing a pillory in Central Place on the Downtown Mall for those caught lighting up in Downtown restaurants. Anti-smoking advocates applauded the move as a necessary first step in getting the public to take seriously the threat of secondhand smoke.
“Sadly, nothing less than public humiliation will stop this national health crisis,” said Chad Brinkley, founder of Citizens for a Smoke-free Charlottesville. “We hope this makes smokers think twice about their filthy, disgusting, unhealthy loser habit.”
The new ordinance passed by a 4 to 1 vote, with Councilor Satyendra Huja voting against it. Huja, in his typically soft voice, said something about it being “illegal” and possibly “barbaric” but it was difficult to understand what he meant.
“I’ve seen the devastating effect of second hand smoke on the homeless trying to quit,” said Major Dave Norris. “Plus, the homeless who do smoke often smoke cigarette butts they’ve found, which the original smokers have already used to assault people with secondhand smoke. It just compounds the problem. The new ordinance, although a little harsh, sends a message, I think, that we mean business.”
Councilor Holly Edwards, who mentioned that second hand smoke made her cry, cried as she read a poem about the decision:
A pillory isn’t mean,
It’s where the addicted can be seen,
So that their shame can set them free.
Councilor David Brown admitted he was uncomfortable with the vote, but said it made him feel “tough.” Still, to soften his stance, he offered free chiropractic services to those pilloried.
Julian Taliaferro admitted he’s been smoking filterless Camels for over 40 years, a habit he picked up in the Army, but said now he only smokes them in the bathroom with the exhaust fan on. As an ex-fire chief, Taliaferro said the pillory addresses a fire safety issue. “Where there’s smoke there’s fire,” said Taliaferro in typically understated fashion, but did not elaborate.
The new experimental ordinance actually went into effect today, much to the dismay of Gordonsville resident Buck Smoltz, who made the mistake of trying to light up at the Blue Light Grill.
“They still had ash trays piled up on the bar, so I thought it was okay,” said Smoltz, who was quickly escorted out the door by the Charlottesville Police Department’s new Assault Secondhand Smoke [ASS] Task Force. “I didn’t even get to take a drag before they dragged me out the door.”
“We’ve already set up surveillance cameras in most Downtown restaurants,” said Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo, “so that our officers can more easily monitor the situation on the ground. It also improves our response time. Ultimately, we hope this will serve as a deterrent, but for now its getting people like Mr. Smoltz off area bar stools.”
“This is an outrage,” said Libertarian smoking advocate Stanley DeButts. “Virginia was founded by settlers who sat around campfires smoking peace pipes with the Indians before they took their land away from them. Do you think those settlers complained about second-hand smoke? Next, they’ll be scalping us.”
DeButts said opposition to the ordinance wasn’t as strong as hoped, mostly because most opponents were standing outside of City Hall having a smoke when the vote took place, but he vows to fight the ordinance.
“There are many smokers who are proud of what they do,” he said, “It’s just a matter of finding them and trying to improve their self-esteem.”
Smoltz, though, wasn't eager to become a martyr for the cause.
“I didn’t even tell my wife I was coming to Charlottesville,” he said, unable to raise his head up to talk to a reporter. “She’s going to kill me.”
Photo information: The pillory was actually a 2007 “penance performance” by artist James Sham, who spent seven days locked in the devise, sort of. Sham invited passers-by to relieve him from duty, and the man shown in the photo above was one of them.
“TheRutabaga” is a relatively new and occasional feature satirizing items of local interest. (Here’s a recent one.)