Thursday, August 19, 2004

Butt Out



Victory for public health or triumph of the nanny state?

I don't even mind the smoking ban all that much in practice. So I have to go outside if I want to smoke a cigarette, so what? But in theory it's an example of a terrible absolutist bit of moralistic legislation. At the very least the City could have made an effort to work out a slightly broader exemption system. But why bother listening to critics who don't have a voice? Mounting a significant public relations offensive to the smoking ban--or for that matter, in favor of repealing the antiquated cabaret laws, or any of the city's more ridiculous or outdated qual. of life regulations--in time to prevent it from passing was an impossible feat. Who wants to be labelled pro-smoking? Pro-drugs? Pro-, um, caberets?

At long last though--and, significantly, far too late--we smokers and caberet-frequenters have found a champion worthy of a public face-off with Mayor Bloomberg: Rheingold Beer. Their new, highly-targeted ad campaign, "Don't Sleep," is essentially a hipsterish advocacy ad, with some dude half-talking, half-rapping about how we have to "take the city back" from those who would restrict our right to smoke and carouse as we see fit.

It's directed by David Gordon Green! It's totally speaking up for MY rights as a New Yorker! IT'S AWESOME!

And it's totally depressing. That the only way this argument--not to mention the cabaret law issue--could receive anything like a real public hearing nowadays is for it to be coopted and exploited by a friggin' brewery desperate for deeper penetration into the burgeoning hipster market? After the legal issues have already been resolved and, for all intents and purposes, set in stone? And framed as a kind of grassroots liberation movement--DON'T SLEEP!--that never actually existed and never really will?

The whole thing is so gross and dispiriting, it makes we want to smoke.

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