Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Smoking knocks off restaurant health department rating points

So the health department now is counting 4 points off a restaurant's score if smoking is allowed.

That's the case, at least, in Jefferson County, Alabama. I've just read the most recent health department ratings, and two restaurants had 4 points ticked off their scores because of the presence of second-hand smoke. One is a sports bar that probably serves only appetizers. Still, that qualified it for a health department inspection. The other was a chain restaurant. (A chain smoking restaurant, I suppose.)

I'm no proponent of smoking. In fact, I hate it. But the libertarian in me gets his dander up when a legal activity brings about a 4-point penalty. (The most serious infractions bring 4- and 5-point deductions.)

Further, the public is fully aware of the health risks of smoking. If someone walks into a restaurant, he or she can observe whether smoking is taking place, then leave if he or she so chooses. (If no one is smoking when one enters the establishment one may ask an employee whether there is a risk someone else might light up before one has finished one's meal.)

But food inspection is an entirely different deal altogether. You've got no way of knowing whether the cook washed his hands after his last trip to the loo or whether the raw chicken was left at room temperature for three days. It's a proper function of government to make sure neither of those things happened.

And businesses that allow smoking but don't serve food aren't given a score they're required by law to post in a prominent place, and that seems a little unfair.

I've sent a missive off to the Jeffco health dicks. I'll post their response if I get one.

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Photo by Anna Cervova via PublicDomainPictures.net.