Column: Why Stop With A Smoking Ban?

This story was written by Beau Elliot, The Daily Iowan

Another unexpected result of Iowa's forward-looking smoking ban has recently aired its presence.

No, the unforeseen result was not the various school districts having to put up No Smoking signs in areas that have been nonsmoking since something like 1993, at a cost of millions of dollars. Good work, forward-thinking legislators, comrades all.

(In another forward-thinking move involving schools, legislators quite famously banned smoking in the parking lots of all public schools, apparently to prevent the bad pollution of smoking from driving out the good pollution of the autos that are driven in and out of said parking lots. I applaud this brave new move - about time somebody recognized the difference between bad pollution and good pollution.)

But the unexpected result of the smoking ban I refer to has to do with essence - now, in a smokeless (albeit small) bar, the air of perfume pervades throughout. At least when women are present.

Which would be fine, I guess, because, in general, I'm in favor of the presence of women. Except for those who wear perfume, because I'm allergic to perfume. These days, I have to go outside not so much to take smoke breaks but to take perfume breaks.

Of course, I'm still allergic to the pollen and mold outside (great summer for both, in case you're keeping score), but I'd rather sneeze to Mother Nature than to Mother Chanel. (Or whatever Mother it might be.)

So, I'm wondering when our forward-thinking legislators will ban perfume in bars. And in the restaurants. I mean, essentially, perfume has demonstrable ill effects on one's health, and besides, who wants to take a bite of fresh grilled salmon (or sauted aubergine, if you swing that way) and wind up with a mouthful of Eau de Tigre?

And, speaking of ill health effects in bars, what about cell phones? A Pittsburgh researcher recently weighed in on the possible dangers of cell-phone use, citing unpublished data (hmmm). But before that, on July 1 in Mother Jones, Kiera Butler wrote an article that also raised the specter of cell phones as a health risk. The scientists quoted were careful to balance their remarks, noting that sample sizes in the various studies were small, and the data in some cases were possibly unreliable.

One researcher, however (identified only as a prominent Australian neurosurgeon - hmmm), "after reviewing more than 100 studies on the link between cell-phone use and brain cancer concluded that cell phones could have a broader public-health impact than smoking."

So maybe our brave new legislators should ban cell-phone use in the bars, too. I mean, if I have to put up with secondhand perfume, why should I have to put up with secondhand microwave radiation?

Ban cell-phone use in the bars? What is this guy smoking? you're wondering. (And, probably, where can I get some?)

Well, if you're into bizarre notions, banning cell phones in the bars would be no stranger than John McCain's sense of geography.

A while back, Johnny Maverick (unclear if he's related to Bret and Bart) raised some eyebrows by endowing Iraq and Pakistan with a common border, and people had to politely point out that there's the small matter of a place called Iran in between the two nations. McCain also, to some stifled giggles, referred to Czechoslovakia, which hasn't existed for around 15 years.

Well, that's kind of embarrassing. Actually, no - it's kind of embarrassing if a college student makes those sorts of mistakes. If a presidential candidate does it, you start to wonder what kind of mushrooms they're sauting on the Straight Talk Express. (You also start to wonder if our legislators should ban bad geography in bars.)

But to make you really wonder what they're sauting over there at Straight Talk, last week, McCain made the same two mistakes again. I mean, once is bad, but twice?

McCain can rail on all he wants about Barack Obama being out of touch with ordinary people; he seems to be out of touch with this universe.

Or to put it another way, Johnny Mav running for president on the basis of his foreign-policy expertise is kind of like George W. Bush running for president on the basis of his exquisite use of the English language.