This summer a big change occurred in Arkansas. A new law was passed to restrict public smoking, which incorporated restrictions on all restaurants. The first time I experienced this was in Los Angeles a few years ago while visiting a friend. She & I went into a restaurant and the hostess simply asked "table for two?" I definitely noted the missing second part, "Smoking or non?"
Now in Arkansas a number of years later, the restaurant standard greeting has been shortened to only the number in the party. On a busy Friday night, there's a whole new section of tables that can be incorporated into the evening's rotation. Waiters and waitresses no longer have to wade through a cloud to deliver a meal. (Can you tell I'm not a smoker?) Restaurant owners at first balked at the new rules; some claimed they would lose business. Yet this week I visited one of our frequent lunch haunts and the crowds are not diminished in the least. I'm a small business owner and can appreciate those not wanting the government determining how to run their business, but I can also agree that this is a case of public health being of foremost concern. I can also see how they may very well be heading off lawsuits, such as happened with flight attendants several years back.
The new laws only just went into effect this July, yet talking with my dad recently he commented how on a trip to St. Louis it seemed a bit out of place to see people smoking in restaurants. That old "smoking or non?" question came back from the dead and was a not-so-subtle reminder that he wasn't in Arkansas anymore.
It's amazing how quick the change has effected my view of restaurants. There are places I will patronize now that I wouldn't before just because I can now enjoy the smell of my food where all I smelled before was the odor of cigarette smoke.