Curt Diebel is asking a lot of questions these days. His customers are too.
Diebel is the owner of Diebel's Sportsmens Gallery in Overland Park's Hawthorne Plaza, Kansas and the one in Country Club Plaza, 22 minutes away in Kansas City, Missouri. Now, after more than a half century in business, three very different smoking bans -- two proposed and the other in effect -- are making life difficult for him and his customers at both locations where premium cigars are the principal products.
"Madness reigns. It makes no sense," says Diebel, whose father, a tobacconist and pipemaker, founded the Kansas City store in 1954. The store is the largest cigars shop
in Missouri. "Fiction has become fact and feelings have replaced freedoms," Diebel says.
The Kansas State Senate was considering a total smoking ban in all public places. After Diebel and others testified before the Ways and Means Committee on March 24, the proposal moved to the Senate floor with an exemption for tobacco shops. The bill awaits further action.
Meanwhile, 11 miles up the road, Kansas City, Missouri passed a smoking ban that excludes cigar stores and a short menu of other places. The ban, which went into effect this week, does not exempt casinos or the Truman Sports Complex.
Here's the screwy part, according to Diebel.
Coming up on the April 8th ballot in Kansas City is a proposed smoking ban that, if passed, would supersede the city's newly enacted ban. Counter to the current ban, the proposed ban does not exclude tobacco shops while it excludes casinos and the Truman Sports Complex.
"It's no wonder everyone is confused. Both governments are trying to tell us what to do and are hiding behind misrepresented and inaccurate data to justify their untenable positions," Diebel said.
"Where do governments get the right to ban smoking in private businesses? Smoking is a legal, adult activity that does not impinge on the welfare of others. If it did, government regulatory agencies like OSHA would step in, but they don't. And smoking premium cigars is like enjoying fine wine or champagne. It's a celebration of choice, not a habit," he said.
"If the government wants to ban smoking in or around government buildings, that's their business. I have no argument there. But private businesses like ours should have the right to decide whether smoking would be allowed instead of having the government decide for us. It sounds like they can't make up their minds, anyway," said Diebel.
"That said, at least the current Kansas City, Missouri ban is moderate. It is a compromise that allows smoking in adult venues. Because it is only a few weeks old, it should be given a chance to work before it is replaced. We urge everyone -- smokers and non-smokers, alike -- to vote No on Question #3 on April 8," he concluded.