Two Cities: Everything not Prohibited is Compulsory in Berkeley


He maintains, in fact, that Berkeley's law was "an example of careless legislation that reinforces stereotypes. The pressure against smoking here is enormous. People are not hesitant to tell you that you shouldn't be smoking. They'll change your behavior. A law just wasn't necessary!"

By contrast, Moe began his protest quietly, continuing to smoke his cigar where he pleased and leaving himself where he please and leaving himself open to arrest within his four-floor literary emporium.

Then the proponent of free choice took to the airwaves, arguing against the ban and debating members of the Group Against Smokers Pollution (GASP) on radio and television.

"GASP pressured the city to pass a (Public smoking) ordinance," Moe recalls, "and distributed leaflets pointing to research. But it didn't prove anything. It didn't indicate conditions anything like what we experience in real life. They talked about extraordinary conditions and pretended they were normal. They were frightening people."

When the city council barrelled the (public smoking) bill through anyway, "it was just before an election... it was the politically correct thing to do," Moe notes. "I was outraged. These people, passing laws without knowing what they're doing!"

Tell it to the judge, Moe's lawyer advised. So Moe challenged the ordinance's constitutionality in court. "The judge didn't want to raise a fuss," Moe says scornfully. "He said he wasn't going to touch to ordinance. Since I was smoking anyway, he decided I could smoke behind the counter in my store and that wouldn't be considered a public place. It was a neat loophole."

Despite the ruling, Moe continues to puff away throughout his store. "I guess I might be subject to a citation," he admits, "but if they told me I couldn't smoke in my store. I'd just have to start raising hell again. The issue of secondhand smoke certainly has not been demonstrated to my satisfaction."

As the anti-smoking movement gains momentum, it's supporter are possessed with "a Prohibitionist zeal," Moe asserts. "I've been accosted verbally by teenagers who patronize me... they tall me I'm an outrage. People have threatened to call the cops on me. Well, we know the ordinance can't really be enforced.

"I mean," he notes, "Berkeley has 200-odd policemen. What are they going to do? Spend their time chasing smokers while rapes and murders go on?"

He doesn't discourage customers from smoking in his store, either. "If anyone asks, I say 'Go ahead and smoke.' I might give them an ashtray. But I won't turn my head. I'd look right at them!" he laughs.

Moe doesn't worry about workplace smoking bans, although most of his employees are non-smokers, because they know "I'm eccentric," he says. "If you work for Moe, you're going to have to put up with cigar smoke. I'd be shocked if somebody who works for me pulled something like that."

No apologist for the tobacco industry, Moe stresses he's an advocate of free choice. "I'm certainly not urging people to smoke, but if a person makes a real choice, I don't see why anyone should interfere.

"If you're a social person, you live in the real world," Moe says, "you learn to make compromises -- even in the face of unreasonable attitudes. In Berkeley, there's a problem of double standards. A person will tell you not to smoke cigarettes, but it's alright if they smoke dope. I think the contradiction is ridiculous."

Moe also scorns anti-smoker vigilante tactics. "This squirting people with water guns, accosting people and calling them names," he complains, "that's absolutely too outrageous!"

When Berkeley's smoking restriction ordinance first took effect, David Goines, a well-known Bay Area typographer, designed a poster reading: "Everything Not Prohibited is Compulsory."

It expressed well, Moe says, his own "compromised anarchist" viewpoint, the reason why he objects to laws that control people. For years, Goines' sign was prominently displayed at Moe's Bookstore and offered for sale.

The sign is gone now, but Moe's sentiment remains the same.

"I'm not crazy about laws," says the berkeley book baron. "I like people to have discretionabout their lives. I will never allow them to take that right away from me."

-- The Tobacco Observer, 1977