Today's issue of The New York Times contains an article about the widespread flouting of Bloomberg's smoking ban. In short, if you you've got the money to go to a half-decent night-club, you're not going to have a problem smoking.
In November, Eater.com called it “the worst kept secret in New York nightlife” that “smoking is now allowed in numerous nightspots, specifically just about any and every lounge and club with a doorman and a rope.”
It's not just New York, of course. I mentioned the growing disobedience of French smokers a few days ago. Until it changed hands recently, my local snooker club routinely turned a blind eye to smoking on the premises. Recently, I stayed in a pub (picked at random) when visiting relatives and found that the curtains closed and the ashtrays came out on the dot of 11pm every night. Similar anecdotal evidence is abundant.
So while it's not just a New York phenomenon, that city has had longer than most to get used to the legislation. The theory is that resistance to smoking bans should fade over time. Seven years after the smoking ban came in, it seems that the opposite is happening. That really should be no surprise - it's what's happened throughout history.
Smoking bans were popular a century ago but were all repealed by the late 1920s, according to Christopher Snowdon, the author of Velvet Glove, Iron Fist: A History of Anti-Smoking. Most bans meet the same fate, Mr. Snowdon said: “They usually end with the same kind of passive resistance you see here.”
“It's just the fact that you have a habit that won’t go away,” he added.
New York has a long and chequered history of anti-smoking measures. Its first smoking ban was back in 1620 when it was still known as New Amsterdam. In the 1900s, it was the home of the Nonsmokers' Protective League. Before the First World War, it banned smoking on public transport and banned women from smoking in public buildings. The 2003 smoking ban was just the latest in a string of failed tobacco control measures.
Today's New York Times article may lead to a crack-down on these night spots in the short-term. In the long term, history suggests that Bloomberg and his health department enforcers have their work cut out.