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Nonsmoking establishments make business cents

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She was going the wrong way, I thought.

I said, "Four, nonsmoking," and she turned to the right into what I knew was the smoking section!

"Excuse me," I said, "that was nonsmoking."

The hostess glanced over her shoulder with a wry smile and said, "The whole restaurant is nonsmoking now."

Oh, you are thinking, this is another flaming nonsmoker queuing up for a verbal round of "beat up the butts people." Well, I cannot blow smoke I think smoking is a particularly disgusting addiction. The yellow fingers, the breath from hell and the flared, steam-engine nostrils don't do anything for me.

I can hear the smokers now, "So what, Lemon (it is LeMon), you probably have your own addictions." Yes, I confess I hit and then chase little white balls all over the grass, the woods, the lakes, the sand. And I pay to indulge this insanity!

There are some addictions which are in the "live and let live" column. Then there are other compulsive behaviors which hurt and even kill others.

This is not some sermon on the dangers of smoking or chewing tobacco right here in River City. These few words are about business. Smart business.

Since breathing in and out is my first addiction, I am appealing to some wild-eyed entrepreneur, who wants the delight of breathing deeeeply all the way to the bank, to make his/her restaurant or hotel in southwest Missouri completely smoke-free. It just makes cents.

As a road warrior of some notoriety (my best friends shine shoes and check luggage), I long to check into a hotel late at night and not be told the only rooms available smell like they were just used for the set of "The X-Files" when "the smoker" made an appearance. I would love to sit in a restaurant which provided everyone the right of clean, breathable air. (Have you noticed that cigarette smoke does not respect the 5-inch boundary between you and the next table?)

You can have your addictions removing the wings of flies, collecting ceramic frogs or stalking Shania Twain posters and I really don't care, as long as your habit does not threaten my life.

According to a 1993 study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 3,000 nonsmoking adults annually die of lung cancer as a result of breathing the smoke of someone's cigarette. Secondhand smoke, or environmental tobacco smoke, causes an estimated 35,000 to 40,000 deaths from heart disease in people who have never smoked.

And, these digits should get your attention if you are in business: tobacco use sucks $100 billion from this economy every year in health care costs and lost productivity.

Health care expenditures caused directly by smoking totaled $50 billion back in 1993, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Forty-three percent of these costs were paid by government funds.

I am convinced there is a huge market of nonsmokers who would become passionate, compulsive, repeat customers of restaurants and hotels that respected our right to breathe risk free.

Do restaurant owners really think we cannot figure out this eating establishment has only one ventilation system and we all become smokers by dessert time? Do hotel owners really believe our olfactory nerves are so dead we cannot tell someone has lit up next door?

Come on, let's talk bottom line here. This whole issue can be reduced to profits. Restaurant and hotel owners are convinced they will lose business when the smokers go to a competitor.

On the other hand, think of the non-smokers, who are driven by this Maslowian passion for life, who would eagerly eat and stay in a smokeless environment. We are talking bucks here.

If I think your business could endanger me, I will not walk through the door. I'm looking for more choices as a nonsmoker. Anyone want my business?

(Dr. Cal LeMon solves organizational problems with customized training and consulting. His company, The Executive Edge, can be contacted at his Web site,

www.executive-edge.com

by phone at 889-4040 or e-mail at callemon@aol.)

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