Saturday, March 01, 2008

Annals of Douchebaggery

Mexico is in the process of banning smoking more or less everywhere, but from the reaction to it, you'd think they were trying to ban sombreros or something. We went through this in NY a few years ago, and I have to say the result has been quite pleasant and, despite the ridiculous scare tactics of tobacco industry-funded "restaurant and tavern associations," the city's economy is chugging along just fine, thank you. (The argument, made with a totally straight face, was that if New York City banned smoking in bars and restaurants, people would stream into New Jersey to eat and drink. As if.) That same basic argument is being made here, even though we're talking about a countrywide ban. So the next time you see a bunch of Mexicans walking over the border into the Arizona desert, don't call the Border Patrol, because they're probably just looking to enjoy a cigarette with their dinner.

So there's this thing in Mexican law called an amparo, which is kind of hard to explain (not because you wouldn't get it, but because I don't) but is essentially a get out of jail free card - an individual or an entity can file an amparo exempting themselves from a legal action (such as a smoking ban) until further review. Which brings us to VIPS, which is like a Mexican version of Denny's, but with more grease and jalapeños, and which has become the first company to obtain an amparo exempting themselves from the new law. VIPS, if you didn't know, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wal-Mart, a company legendary for protecting American kids from racy and suggestive lyrics, but apparently willing to lawyer-up to ensure that Mexican teens can continue to smoke in their restaurants. After all, if they couldn't smoke there, they'd just go to Guatemala instead.

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