Smoking ban cartoon by John JonikTHE STATE smoking-ban legislation smells as bad as the worst ashtray.

By not repealing the Philadelphia ban on smoking in bars and casinos, this law guarantees that bar owners, etc., will be soon at each other's throats instead of joining to oppose bans. As smokers flock to out-of-town smoking venues for beers and slots, the in-town proprietors will yell at the unfairness. They will call for a "level playing field."

Legislators will not level the field by dumping the Philly ban - they will call for a "tougher" state law to extend the ban to all bars and casinos.

The exemption on state bars and casinos seems designed to just get the law passed - with a little wink-wink from ban-pushers about getting to the bars and casinos a bit later.

Ban proponents always claim, groundlessly, that bans are good for business. They hope to prevent affected bar owners from receiving constitutionally guaranteed compensation for the "takings" of business. But when customers abandon no-smoking bars to cross into legal smoking territory, then the "level playing field" ploy comes into action to ban smoking everywhere.

The evidence that bans harm businesses is shamelessly, perhaps unconstitutionally, ignored. But then what else may be expected from "concerned" anti-smokers who also ignore even the worst, most harmful nontobacco parts of most cigarettes, namely the pesticide residues, dioxins, radiation from certain fertilizers, and even the still legal (!) burn accelerants that contribute to so many fires, injuries and deaths.

No bans on that.

John Jonik, Philadelphia

Will, meet Bob

In his recent story on John McCain, Will Bunch referred to McCain as the oldest first-time nominee ever by the Republican Party at 71. But Sen. Bob Dole was 73 when he was the GOP nominee in 1996.

Joe Miegoc, Carbondale, Pa.