Hash Over

Butt ban?
Members of the Dallas Environmental Health Commission put the screws to the restaurant industry late last week, and well they should. During a hearing considering toughened city smoking regulations, representatives of the Greater Dallas Restaurant Association and the Hotel/Motel Association of Greater Dallas asserted that restaurants and bars would suffer losses if tightened restrictions or an outright smoking ban were enacted. They added that their members have heard not a peep from customers concerning problems with the current ordinance, which allows restaurants to freely designate smoking and non-smoking sections.

But they offered no hard data to substantiate these claims, prompting prickly quips from the commission. "How often does a patron enter a restaurant and ask to be seated in a no-smoking section and is told there is no seating available in no-smoking?" asked commission member Richard Wasserman. "If there's no data tracking that, then I think it's disingenuous to suggest that there isn't a problem."

What's more disingenuous, however, is the kid-glove treatment commission members applied to the Dallas Fresh Air Coalition, an ad-hoc organization of health and community-interest groups that seeks to dramatically tighten the city's smoking ordinance in the name of public health. Armed with reams of evidentiary paper bolstering their contention that secondhand smoke is a serious public health risk that "voters" want regulated, the group offered a 1993 Environmental Protection Agency report designating airborne smoke a "class A carcinogen" as the linchpin to their argument. This report is the justification for public-place smoking bans nationwide. Yet in July, a federal judge struck down the EPA's findings, essentially saying the agency reached a desired conclusion before research began, and then doctored established procedures to make sure the evidence conformed to that conclusion--that is, secondhand smoke causes cancer. A recent seven-year, seven-country World Health Organization study also found no statistically significant health risks associated with secondhand smoke.

But such findings, while pointed out to the commission, drew no scrutiny for Fresh Air, which shows you how aerodynamically sound junk science is in the world of lawmaking.

List watch
Treat yourself to an unusual, exuberant drink. The 1996 Guelbenzu Jardin, a Grenache from the Navarra region adjoining the Rioja district in Northern Spain, is rich in bright red fruit girded with spice that stretches into lengthy finish with some grip. Find this relatively inexpensive wine on lists at Cafe Madrid, Ketama, and De Tapas.

--Mark Stuertz

E-mail Dish at markstz@juno.com.


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