Following the Aug. 14, 2008, publication of "There's Smoke, No Ire," by staff writer Yusef Najafi, Mark Lee contacted Metro Weekly. Lee's concern was aimed primarily at a single sentence:
"And while The Center's acting executive director, David Mariner, and Lizard's Mark Lee, sit in opposing camps, both seem content with the current status quo, allowing for some limited nightlife smoking and resources for The Center to make progress against tobacco use."
First, it should be noted, that phrasing was not crafted by Najafi, but was added by me during editing, in an attempt to more clearly set the tone of the story. That intended tone is that there is something newsworthy about the new reality of having a nightclub/bar smoking ban on one hand, and the fact that District, gay-nightlife venues opening since its implementation offer -- almost as a rule, it seems -- smoking areas, on the other.
While the story may make it seem as though a sort of community truce has evolved out of the long and oftentimes testy debate about smoking, Lee called to correct any notion that he may be at all content with the ban, offering this comment:
"Of nightlife patrons, owners and managers in our community, small businesses, reaction to The Center's anti-smoking campaign is that I don't believe any of us have ever opposed persuasion. We've just opposed prohibition.
"Freedom of choice advocates are fully aware of the significant impact on our bars and nightclubs, which we predicted, and as evidenced by other jurisdictions. The pain and suffering has been significant and sustained.
"It's an unfortunate policy that harms our businesses and prohibits our patrons from exercising their personal choice. And it's all based on the ridiculous notion that people are keeling over dead from being in close proximity to someone smoking a cigarette.
"I remain firmly opposed to the smoking ban and saddened by the hardship it has caused our community's small businesses."
In short, my perception that the tobacco debate in the local GLBT community may have come to a satisfactory compromise, to some degree, was premature. Ire remains.
--Will O'Bryan, managing editor, Metro Weekly