Veronica Mullin

Special to the Gardner News

Russell Scott Little doesn’t support the smoking ban, like many of his fellow smokers. But he’s taking his protest to the next level, and it’s all starting at his local Waffle House.

Richard Little, left, and a friend share coffee at the Waffle House on Thursday morning. Little set up a table outside the Waffle House so he could smoke after a statewide smoking ban went into effect on July 1. Staff photo by Corbin H. Crable

When the ban came into effect at on July 1, Little was told he couldn’t smoke inside the restaurant any longer. He took his cigarette outside, but wasn’t ready to leave. Instead, he backed his SUV into a parking space near the front of the building and brought out his own table, umbrella, and chairs. But why did he set up at Waffle House? Why not at home, or at a friend’s house?

“I’ve been a regular for nine years,” Little said. “People come here to have coffee and cigarettes, and it builds good friendships.”

If restaurant managers no longer allow him to sit outside at his table at some point, he said he’ll just find somewhere else.

“I’ll find some other property and set up a big tent,” Little exclaimed. “We’ll call it the ‘Smokers’ Tent.’”

Tents are a major part of Little’s plan. Cold weather and rain doesn’t intimidate him because in such cases, all he has to do is pitch a tent and fire up a heater.

He said he’ll fight for what he believes regardless of the circumstances.

“I served for eight years in the military, defending our country,” Little explained. “I’m not above bringing in a tent.”

Little and his dining companions believe the smoking ban is nonsense. They said they’re concerned that the government outlawed smoking in some places and not others. They also questioned whether the Kansas Legislature had the right to institute a smoking ban in the first place.

“It should be up to the business owners.” Little’s friend said. “Every day we lose more rights. I’m 57 years old, and I’ve seen way too much going on around here.”

They voiced a belief that the United States was built on a few strong industries and the tobacco industry was one of them. It’s part of their culture and lifestyle, and they won’t stand for the government to take it away, Little explained.

The tent diners said they doubt that the sell of cigarettes will ever be outlawed. However, they admitted that smoking does have health risks.

But, Little said, that’s no reason to ban it in public.

“Everything has health issues,” Little said. “But you don’t see them closing down the fast food chains, or banning the sale of alcohol. Alcohol is worse [for the body] than cigarettes.”