With Respect for Tankboy Duly Noted, Pass the Freaking Smoking Ban, Wouldya Chicago?

In the spirit of a great city deserves a great debate and with good will to my fellow blogger and our community of commenters, I’m so not on board with the anti-smoking ban crowd’s position, described succinctly by Tankboy as “fuck” the smoking ban. (See his post here.)

a) I don’t think bars are for smoking. I see that as a debatable, romantic notion that has been pinned to cigarette-smoking over time, and a lot of people have grown used to it. I think it’s a weak argument. Bars are for drinking and occasionally throwing up. There was a time when you could chain-smoke all you wanted in your office or your cubicle. At that point, one could have argued that offices were for smoking.

b)I am dumbfounded why a minority group (by that I mean smokers) gets to noxious up the air for the majority group when there are proven health consequences from second-hand smoke. And, the free enterprise system does work to some degree — I don’t spend my money in smokey bars. I’m making that choice on a fouled environment, which I expect our government to correct. I would support the idea of “smoking lounges” for smokers, but I’d want it to be restrictive so that every bar and restaurant couldn’t just sign up for that license.

c) Are restaurants conceded here as being places that should rightfully be smoke-free? Because that’s just nasty to smell that stuff while eating. Ick.

d) Lay off the waitress who got throat cancer. I don’t know if she’s a real person or an actress, so if it’s the latter, I agree she’s fair game, but spare me the “she’s so lamel” shit if that’s a real person. It takes balls to stand up against the righteous-smokers-til-we-die-from-cancer-so-why-aren’t-you-joyful-about-cancer-too crowd.

e) Smokers are going to lose this battle sooner or later. And, frankly, they deserve to, if for no other reason than they brought Mike Ditka in to testify on their behalf. Remember when he was going to be our senator? Or when he used to actually live here? The pro-smoker coalition must love satire as much as I do.

f) First place I will go (and spend a bunch of money) when the ban is passed: Blues on Halsted.

Photo courtesy of SomewhatFrank.

18 Comments so far

  1. nikkos (unregistered) on October 3rd, 2005 @ 2:03 pm

    Jennifer, I won’t argue with any of your points above.

    My question is this: why must this be legislated?

    Why can’t bar and restaurant owners simply decide for themselves? Presumably, a 100% non-smoking establishment would attract a crowd that wishes to eat and drink in a smoke free environment.

    Similarly, a bar or restaurant that catered to the smoking crowd (cigs, cigars, pipes) would presumably draw cutomers that wish to smoke.

    Seems pretty simple to me, and it doesn’t require new laws, ordinances, taxpayer money to fund the sessions of debate, etc.

    I guess you get a hostile reaction from a lot of smokers because (a) we are addicted (b) we don’t like being reminded how addicted we really are, but perhaps most importantly, (c) we do not like being treated like a criminal underclass in our society.

  2. Alana (unregistered) on October 3rd, 2005 @ 2:50 pm

    Without cigarettes, booze is NOTHING. They go together. They are age-old lovers. One thickens, the other thins. They are the salt and pepper of sin. You cannot have one without the other.

    You can’t be “kinda” bad. You’re either in and agree to turf rules or stay out. Smokers invented the neighborhood bar and there is no room here for the weak or whiney.

    The end.

    ::ahem cough cough hack::

  3. CP (unregistered) on October 3rd, 2005 @ 3:13 pm

    ehhh, I’m gonna smoke in a bar if I want to, same with restaurants, that’s why there’s non-smoking sections. It’s my right to smoke. I observe the rules for everywhere else. I realize why I shouldn’t smoke at a gas station, or a hospital etc. But a bar WAS meant to be smoked in while I down my frosty pint. Smokers may eventually lose, it’s hard to argue with that. but I’ll do my damndest to keep it from happening in my lifetime.

  4. Art (unregistered) on October 3rd, 2005 @ 3:25 pm

    The issue isn’t customers, it’s employees. That’s why it has to be legislated, because the bars and restaurants themselves would never risk losing customers to protect employees. You could argue, “hey, waiters can get a job somewhere else.” But, the precedent in this country is that, like it or not, the government gets involved in making work places safer, because that’s often at odds with the interest of the employer.

  5. nikkos (unregistered) on October 3rd, 2005 @ 4:02 pm

    Art, I hear ya and I wish I had a better defense for my side of the argument. Alas, I will admit I do not. This ban will eventually pass, but will be repealed within 2-3 years, that’s my prediction. You heard it here first!

    I’m also looking forward to the day when the City flips out upon realizing that constant demonizing of smokers has reulted in less smokers, thereby reducing tax revenues in a big way. Right now, the City gets a lot of free money from us smokers-it will only be missed when it’s gone.

    Anyone that’s actually in the service industry care to weigh in?

  6. tankboy (unregistered) on October 3rd, 2005 @ 4:14 pm

    //My question is this: why must this be legislated?//
    That was kind of my point…the whole why must this be legislated thing. Like I said, if there’s such a huge demand for a smokeless bar why hasn’t someone opened one up? Since smokers are in the minority shouldn’t it be doing gangbusters-stylee business?

    //Are restaurants conceded here as being places that should rightfully be smoke-free?//
    I’ll concede that. Even when I was smoking I wouldn’t do it in a restaurant. That would be so “Old Country Buffet.”

    Y’know, the ban will make it much easier on me since I am in the midst of quitting smoking but I still can’t get on board with it.

  7. Mark (unregistered) on October 3rd, 2005 @ 7:56 pm

    I live in Bucktown where there are more than 10 bars within a 4 block radius of my house. I love it. The bars range from old man shot and a beer to the artsy fartsy. Most are nestled in the neighborhood, not on a main thoroughfare. I think the bigger bars, bars with music, and big sports places will fare OK with this ban. The shot and beer bars and bars that cater to the neighborhood will suffer tremendously. I surveyed this a couple of years ago and found that about 2/3 of the people smoked with their drinks (during the periods I was there). The artsy fartsy place was less while the shot and a beer old man’s bar had close to everyone smoking while drinking.

    It will be sad to see these places close down since they make my neighborhood unique. No worry about drinking and driving — just stagger home.

    I also worry about now the smokers will be forced outside throwing their cigarette butts all over the street. Now they, and the noise they make when drunk, are safely enclosed inside and out of sight. When this ban goes into effect that will all change. I happen to live across the street from one of these bars which has been extremely respectful to us neighbors and very quiet. I don’t think they’ll be able to manage the situation when 2/3 of the people there have to go outside ever 15 or so minutes. This bar also suffers from severe ups and downs in crowds and is barely making it now. I do think the smoking ban will kill this place and most certainly the old man’s place down the street.

    I discussed this with the owner and apparently him (and other bars in the hood) have developed a “nuclear option” should this ban be as severe as it seems likely to be. They plan on becoming a “private club.” I don’t understand the legal issues in doing this but I have my doubts this will work. It’s too bad because the owners of these places are hard working blue collar types trying to make a small buck. And as for the employees aspect, virtually all the bartenders smoke as well as the owners.

    I really wish there could be an exception could made for the small neighborhood bars. If they wait a year to find out what will happen to them they will probably all be gone and turned into apartments. That will be a sad day for Bucktown IMHO.

  8. JenniferRoche (unregistered) on October 4th, 2005 @ 7:08 am

    Hey all, Could not get back to computer until now.

    The reason, I think, we have to legislate it is that it is basically voluntary now and no one, except for a few brave or elitist spots, has cut out smoking. I think all the bar owners see the marriage of smoking and drinking as being as inseparable as many of you. So, it’s not happening.

    In fact, I think Richie “Green” Daley has not jumped on board the strong restaurant lobby here are among those who have helped most to keep smoking entrenched in our bars and restaurants. We’re asking the people most in favor of smoking in bars and restaurants to volunteer to eliminate it. Not happening.

    Also, I get the smoking-and-drinking-belong-together argument, I just don’t believe it can’t change.

    There is something really great about listening to a band, drinking, hanging, eating, and not peering through a smoke cloud or coming home smelling like crap. I got on board with this ban by hanging out in bars and restaurants in California and having it slowly dawn on me that I could breathe. It was sooo much nicer.

    There is no way cigarette butt litter could get any worse. As someone who helped pick up 4466 cigarette butts in a three-hour stretch of off one beach (see previous post on International Clean up Day), I can tell you that smokers are ridiculously careless and thoughtless about their butts. They pretend like they’re invisible and biodegradable. And, it really pisses me off. I draw the line at outlawing smoking because I think that’s a wrong for a lot of reasons, but the amount of litter smokers contribue to this world sometimes makes me want to reconsider it.

    I get the sadness over the local watering hole shutting down. I am doubtful how true it will be. I don’t think it’s happened elsewhere to a significant extent.

    Backgammon, anyone?

  9. BarFly (unregistered) on October 4th, 2005 @ 11:29 am

    Uh, the little neighborhood bars in NYC benefitted greatly from the smoking ban there. I love the little shot-n-beer joints and prefer them to the yuppied-up sports bar places, but rarely go there because the smoke in places like the L&L is so thick and you literally reek after about 15 minutes inside.

    There are plenty of us who will forego the big jock bars in favor of the down-to-earth corner tavern once the ban passes.

  10. laila (unregistered) on October 4th, 2005 @ 12:12 pm

    I lived through the bans (no restaurant smoking and no bar smoking)in California and also have been in the service industry for years and, yes, have been a smoker. All of the sky is going to fall/all the bars will close down/this is a horrific disaster talk is perfectly normal, but not at all true. Generally what happens is that there is a dip in customers for the first 3-6 weeks. Just a dip, no crickets chirping. Your favorite neighborhood joint will not close down. Then, when people realize that hanging out at home and being angry is not as fun as being out and about, they come back and smoke outside. I am not sure if many bars in Chicago will do this, but in many CA cities lots of “smoking patios” opened up to accommodate smoking customers. And, of course, there will be a number of places where smoking will still happen – either illegally or through some sort of loophole in the law (in CA if you own your own bar and have no employees – you can allow smoking since you are making a choice to expose yourself to smoke – as a result bars with several “owners” and no employees on the books allow smoking).

    The best part of the bar smoking ban is that you will come home after a long night out and you and your clothes will not stink of stale bar smoke.

  11. Mark (unregistered) on October 4th, 2005 @ 2:34 pm

    Barfly I know your type. Every year people like you come trouncing through all the little bars on your annual pub crawl, with your funny hats and games, filling the place to over capacity, marveling at the bar as some sort of museum and looking at us regulars like animals in a zoo. An hour later your off to the next bar. It’s the regulars that keep these small places in business and in the survey I did, almost all (more than 90%) regulars smoke.

    These small bar owners are going to get blindsided by this because I don’t think they have been following current events and then they’ll ask for an exemption during the 6 months before it takes effect. From what I heard from people who go to NYC, many of the corner taverns do allow smoking and the smoking rules aren’t enforced for them — much like the video slot machines in many of these small places here.

  12. Alana (unregistered) on October 4th, 2005 @ 3:11 pm

    “The issue isn’t customers, it’s employees.”

    Art, with all due respect, when you sign up to be a bartender, you know what that entails. Smoky rooms with loud and obnoxious drunks (at times).

    There are plenty of service-industry jobs where you wouldn’t be in such a smoky environment.

    I’m sorry. I just don’t buy it.

    But I do like the precedent that I can get into a career and then dump the things that I don

  13. Bill V (unregistered) on October 4th, 2005 @ 4:51 pm

    I’m way for the ban, but it’s puzzling to why each bar or restaurant can’t implement this on their own. Smokers are in the minority, so do these places really need to cater to the smokers? At times, it does seem that smokers are the majority, so it’s probably a double-edged sword for the venues, if in a group, the group would have to choose the smoking establishment.

  14. BarFly (unregistered) on October 5th, 2005 @ 11:41 am

    Way to generalize there, Mark.

    And let me respectfully add that you’re full of crap.

    The issue is that we would BE regulars at some of the smaller, corner bars that we enjoy frequenting, if we didn’t have to choke through thick clouds of smoke and stink like smokers’ ass when we leave after just one or two drinks. Instead, we take our business, reluctantly, to some of the larger bars that may be extremely lame, but are large enough that the level of smoke is slightly more tolerable.

    I spend 3-4 weeks every year in NYC and I can assure you that no bar is “exempted” from the smoking regulations there. And it most certainly is enforced there. From what I understand, few if any bars there saw their businesses drop far enough to qualify for the “hardship exemption.”

    The “workers know what they are getting into” is a bogus argument. We don’t let factory workers be exposed to asbestos just because “they can get another job elsewhere.” We don’t let factories belch lead into the sky because the folks that live nearby “knew what they were getting into and can just move somewhere else.” This is why we have workplace health and safety laws in this country — so a person doesn’t have to choose between a paying job and risking cancer.

  15. Alana (unregistered) on October 5th, 2005 @ 2:03 pm

    “We don’t let factory workers be exposed to asbestos just because “they can get another job elsewhere.”

    What about asbestos abatement workers?

    Dude. It’s part of the gig.

    Would you be a coalminer and complain about being exposed to black lung disease? I’m not saying that it’s not horrible, but there are accepted risks with certain jobs. My dad was an undercover narcotics officer in Texas for 31 years. Do you think he wasn’t exposed to some incredibly nasty shit?

    “so a person doesn’t have to choose between a paying job and risking cancer.”

    So now we’ll legislate any and all carcinogens out of every workplace environment? And how do you propose we do that? Are you aware of what a Pandora’s box this is?

  16. Sandrok (unregistered) on October 5th, 2005 @ 4:14 pm

    I work in a club. I have for almost eight years. I am now in a management position. Smoke is horrible. I used to smoke. I gave it up. I still have to deal with it at work. I have come to a point where I may have to walk away from all I have achieved at this club because I just cannot deal with the smoke anymore. That is not right.

    A friend of mine said something very relevant to this. “Being able to choose to smoke is a right, but being able to choose where is not. Being able to choose to be naked is a right, but it’s not like you can walk down the street and be naked just becaues you feel like it.” Smoke in your home. Smoke in your car. Smoke outside. I have no “clean air stick” that I can wave around to counter someone’s smoke getting in my face. You’re basically telling me I don’t have a right to clean air when you smoke up my air. Who are you to have more right than I?

    I have been to LA, NY, and Boston, all post-smoking ban. It was great. People there really seem to like it.

    This really boils down to change. People fear change. They oppose it. A restriction on where you smoke is inevitable. It is just an issue of how many people are affected by it in the mean time.

  17. nikkos (unregistered) on October 5th, 2005 @ 4:44 pm

    Well said Mr. Sandrok!

  18. nikkos (unregistered) on October 6th, 2005 @ 11:06 am

    Via the Sun-Times: Showdown on city smoking ban delayed


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