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Interview With Anthony Bourdain, Lyndon Haviland

Aired May 16, 2003 - 20:23   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Cigarette smoking used to have a mystique. We've seen all those old movies, sophisticated men and women, draped in a dream light cloud of cigarette smoke, often in a nightclub or a four-star restaurant. Nowadays, though, you can't even smoke in a nightclub in New York. Recently here they started this ban against -- it's one of the strongest anti-smoking ordinances in the country.
Writing in "The New York Times," recording artist Joe Jackson says, "things are getting so bad," he's thinking of leaving New York for a city that in his words, "is free and tolerant." He calls the New York smoking ban "the last straw."

Do people have the right to smoke in public places? Two people with very strong opinions on the subject are with us tonight. In New York, they are Lyndon Haviland, the chief operating officer of the American Legacy Foundation. And Anthony Bourdain, he is executive chef and author of the novel "The Bobby Gold Story." Welcome to both of you.


KAGAN: Anthony, let's start with you. A man who loves food, but enjoys a good smoke...


KAGAN: ... as well. And you're not ashamed to say that.

BOURDAIN: Sure. And I understand why people wouldn't want me to smoke in fine dining rooms, or even in any dining rooms. And I'm more than willing to comply. But to me, to completely eliminate choice, to legislate behavior, and worst of all, to put my local saloon out of business.

KAGAN: Can't even have a drink and a cigarette.

BOURDAIN: Well, if I can have a shot and a beer at 10:00 in the morning with fellow working stiffs, I think that I should be able to enjoy an integral part of that experience for many of us, a cigarette -- that we've been pushed out in such an unlovely way into the cold, that we're in such a headlong rush to become the next Singapore I find horrifying and completely, well, un-American. KAGAN: Well, the big push behind this has been Mayor Bloomberg. And he's made the point, Lyndon, and perhaps you agree with him, that it's not just about the customers like Anthony perhaps, or like all of us, but it's about the people who have to work in these establishments. And it's for them that he's trying to protect them from secondhand smoke.

HAVILAND: And Mike Bloomberg is absolutely correct. This is about workers rights. New York City is the greatest city on earth, and the greatest city on earth needs to protect the rights of workers. Bartenders and waitresses have no choice. And when they are sucking in 4,000 deadly chemicals because they're standing there, it's just not right. I applaud the work of Mayor Bloomberg and Commissioner Freeden (ph). This is the American dream, a dream that has a smoke- free future.

KAGAN: But we saw the cartoons as we were coming back from break, and it was making all these jokes about all these restaurants and bars that are going out of business. If people like you, Anthony, can't go out and enjoy it, perhaps they're not going to go, the businesses go out, and then there's nowhere for these waiters and waitresses to work.

BOURDAIN: Who's getting put out of work here, who's getting hurt? Bartenders and waiters. The argument is always that it's about the workers, when, in fact, I consider it an elitist bunch who hold workers generally in contempt. They don't drink at the same saloons as these workers they care about so much. And the establishments that they're putting out of business are not the type of places they ever hung out in to start with. Who will, in the aggregate, will the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) business recover? Possibly. But what type of establishment will take their place? Generic chain restaurants? We'll look, all of us, like Times Square.

KAGAN: Lyndon is shaking her head.

HAVILAND: Look, you're wrong. I have to say it, but you're wrong. Ninety-three municipalities across the country, in very diverse places, Eugene, Oregon, El Paso, Texas, all of California...

KAGAN: But this is New York City.

HAVILAND: ... and New York City, and in 93 locations, what have we found? That the economics tell the tale. Not only do restaurants and bars have better sales, they actually enjoy better customers, customers who come and stay longer, because they don't have to compete with cigarettes. And the economics -- the economic tale over the last decade is that in every case when somebody goes smoke-free, it's good for business. And frankly, I want New York City to be good for business as well. And this is a good move.

KAGAN: Anthony, let me make you mayor for today. I'm going to toss out Mayor Bloomberg for just a moment. I'm going to make you mayor. Are you going to toss out the whole ban? Are you going to make it like it was? Or do you think that there's somewhere in the middle that you could perhaps make things a little bit less smoky but not go all the way with a smoking ban?

BOURDAIN: I'm all for a happy medium.

KAGAN: And what is that?

BOURDAIN: Leave it up to the individual owner/operator to publicly announce, this will be a smoking establishment, this will not be a smoking establishment.

KAGAN: Let each bar owner...

BOURDAIN: Even a ban in restaurants, though it is definitely hurting the business in the short-term and in the long-term, that is yet to be determined. The better customer was the operative term here, meaning wealthy customer. Wealthy regular customer.


BOURDAIN: ... a high roller.

KAGAN: Now who's being elitist? Are you saying that all poor people want to smoke? Maybe there's some people out there who...


BOURDAIN: I'm saying people -- exactly, I'm looking out for the local saloon, the local joint, where you know the owner, you could afford to eat there, it's your type of place, they know what you like, and they have no problem with smoking.

KAGAN: So you're saying leave it up to the proprietor?

BOURDAIN: I would like to leave it up to the proprietor, and perhaps restrict in dining rooms. I can understand in dining rooms, but leave a smoking section. I think there could be a happy medium in restaurants.


BOURDAIN: To me, the bar is the last line of defense.

KAGAN: OK, what about a local barkeep? He owns the place. He wants to -- he's OK. He's only going to hire people who are willing to work in an environment like that, and if they don't want to work at that, they can go work at a place where it is smoke-free.

HAVILAND: Well, first of all, that just don't work. We have rules in bars. We have rules in restaurants. We have OSHA rules that protect workers from other things. The only protection that a waitress or a bartender has is their apron. And against 4,000 chemicals, that won't work. Frankly, there's no such thing as a safe cigarette, so therefore there is no such thing as a happy medium. It's like having a non-peeing section in the pool. We know that doesn't work. And we know it won't work with the air either.

KAGAN: OK, whether you like it or not, just quickly, as we wrap, is it here to stay? Is New York City going to stay smoke-free in restaurants and bars?

BOURDAIN: I've seen the future, and it's Singapore.

KAGAN: And that's clean?

BOURDAIN: Unfortunately.

KAGAN: For you.

HAVILAND: I see the future, that it's great. You're going to see a rebound in sales, you're going to see really exciting new breakthroughs. And I think the mayor and the commissioner of health have done a courageous thing, and that more cities are going to follow. It's great news for all Americans.

KAGAN: We will be watching it. Thanks for the discussion. Perhaps we'll continue it later, over a drink but not over a cigarette. Not in this city. Thanks to both of you.

HAVILAND: Thank you.

KAGAN: Appreciate it.

BOURDAIN: Thank you.


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