August 30 2007

Smoke-free work & bars, who are the real losers?

Smoke-free work & bars, who are the real losers?My city of residence, Kirksville,MO, enacted a smoking ordinance on July 1st, 2007 that finally prompted me to write an entry I have pondered for ages.

Smoking bans are bad for your economy and a violation of people’s rights.

Now, let’s be clear before I go much further, I am a REFORMED smoker. I quit smoking several years ago, I do have the occasional cigarette here or there, and the rare cigar, but I am no longer a full-time smoker.  My annoyance with bans such as this comes entirely from a business perspective and a freedom of choice angle.

Why do I feel the way I do? It’s fairly simple, but I know not a very popular stance, and I expect a lot of people will tell me I am wrong-headed on this, but I still want to express myself.

It hurts the economy – The people who say smoking bans help the economy are always the people most for it, and they extol the claim that the non-smokers will swarm to the bars because it is the smoke that keeps them out.

Could someone please explain to me then why I know of 42 bars that closed in the Lake of the Ozarks region within 2 years of their enacting a smoking ban? My uncle, a talent booker of musicians for bars and clubs, informed me of this, and every bar informed him of the same reason: “We just lost too many customers after the smoking ban.”

What a lot of people don’t realize, although smokers could have told you this, alcohol boosts the the effects and desire of cigarettes. In a 2004 Duke University study, this was documented.

In tests on human volunteers, Duke University Medical Center researchers have found that even small amounts of alcohol boost the pleasurable effects of nicotine, inducing people to smoke more when drinking alcoholic beverages. The findings provide a physiological explanation for the common observation that people smoke more in bars. The findings also explain statistics showing that alcoholics tend to smoke more than non-alcoholics, and that smokers are more likely to be alcoholics.

non-smokersIf you remove the ability to smoke in a bar, what reason do the smokers have to go to the bar? They know their desire to smoke will be increased while drinking, so why should they patronize an establishment that doesn’t allow it?  There will be other places they can go, so though they may been a regular at a bar, if they can’t smoke there, some of their drive to be there, leaves.
When you add in the lowered standards to qualify as a drunk driver, currently a Blood Alcohol Content of .08 in Missouri, where is the incentive for smokers to even leave their homes to go to the bar?  If they go, they can’t smoke, and with the BAC that low, they can barely drink.  They instead will stay home to drink or attend parties at a friends house, reducing the number of patrons in a bar.

It violates people’s rights – Non-smokers talk about how smokers in a bar are violating their rights by forcing them to inhale their second hand smoke. Well, here’s the problem with that idea: Who forced you to go into the bar? Did someone hold you at gunpoint and force you into the smoke filled bar? No. You chose to walk in there, just the same as the smoker did.

The same goes for employees who work in a bar and talk about how they are being forced to inhale the second hand smoke. Really? Did someone force you to apply for that job? Were you not aware at the time you applied it was a smoking establishment, or did they somehow conceal that fact from you? No. You chose to apply for that position and you chose to accept the job.

If you don’t like the fact a bar is smoky, why not go some place that’s not? Oh wait, there aren’t smoke-free bars most places because smoking and drinking go hand-in-hand, so the non-smokers had to force THEIR world-view on the bars by voting in laws, removing the freedom of choice from smokers, and dictating to businesses what they can and can’t allow.  I am sure there will be non-smokers who say a smoke-filled bar removes their choice to go to the bar, and they would be wrong.  There is no law prohibiting you from entering the establishment, you CHOOSE not to enter the establishment.  Just as the smokers now choose to leave the bars and the owners have to hope their departed regulars MIGHT be replaced by the non-smokers who wanted an option.

My town even took the rule a step further about what a business owner can allow in their business, one they built from the ground-up.

Can a business allow smoking in a private Office?

No, smoking is allowed only outdoors and ten feet away from (Sean’s note:That’s how it appears on the page, I didn’t cut it off)


Hold it… you can’t even smoke in YOUR office? Your private sanctuary, the office where you do your work. That’s just lovely, and not even remotely totalitarian!

I support non-smoking in restaurants – I am defining restaurants as places like Ruby Tuesday’s that have a bar in them, but the majority of their floor space is specifically geared to food service. Food is an essential of life, going to a bar to drink is not. Drinking alcohol is a completely voluntary action, as is smoking, and hence, you are aware of the conditions in a bar before going to the bar. A restaurant is a different creature. If a bar serves food, that does not qualify as it is not their primary business.

Hypocrisy – Now here’s the thing that kills me about my city’s ban.

Is smoking prohibited in all bars and restaurants?

No. Smoking is not prohibited in facilities owned and/or operated by a membership association or under the control of a membership association if such facility is used primarily for its members. This would include the El Kadir Shrine Club, the Loyal Order of the Moose, the Kirksville Country Club and the NEMO Fairgrounds.

Yes, these are privately owned establishments, but why are they treated differently than say the office of a bar owner? You can tell the owner of an establishment he can’t smoke anywhere in his own business, but you can’t tell that to something like the Shrine club? Why do I see membership at these clubs going up?

Let me state this again, going to a bar is a completely voluntary activity. It is not an essential of life, your body does not require it to function, so why should a smoking ban extend to a bar? I just don’t get it.  And as the above sign from a local bar indicates, where are the non-smokers that wanted this ban so bad?  Are they racing into the bars?  Doesn’t appear so.

I know smoking is unhealthy, that’s why I quit, and it is also why I realize I should have never started, but it was all my choice.  I stopped going to bars because they quite frankly bored me.  I voted against the ban, but it still passed, and I do realize that was “the will of the people”, but of those who voted for it, that wanted this to happen… how many of you have patronized those bars now that you got what you wanted?

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General Rants | | | | | |


  • You undermine your economic reason when you say that non-smokers should stay away from the bars/clubs if they don’t like smoking. Either way, business is lost. The only question is whether or not more business is lost one way or the other. Also, honestly, do you really think money is more important than public health concerns? This is what keeps the cost of cigarettes low in Japan and the number of smokers high. The government gets tax revenue from it.

    The main problem, which I’m sure you’re well aware of, is that second-hand smoke indoors is difficult to escape or effectively remove. While I personally think that smoking shouldn’t be prohibited in bars, clubs, or entertainment-based businesses, I think offices are another issue entirely though since everyone needs to work and you can’t have a lot of idiosyncratic rule-making in this regard. Also, people don’t have infinite options as to where they can work and no one should have to suffer in a job they need because others can’t go outside for 10 minutes to smoke occasionally. It harms the smoking employee not at all to go somewhere else to smoke and smoking actually interrupts and reduces employee productivity. If you’re going to talk economics as part of the smoking/non-smoking debate, then consider that the frequent breaks smokers take to smoke mean they work less time. I know this because at my former office, smokers smoked and chatted as many as 5 times a day for 5-10 minutes at a time while the rest of us never got any breaks besides lunch. Also, if you do a search on the internet, there are plenty of studies that show how smoking and being a smoker result in a lot of lost money for employers. It’s not just one study, it’s a great many.

    Smoking in offices is not like the bar/club situation where you don’t need to be there and can opt not to patronize those businesses. I think your opinion is heavily influenced by your being a smoker (which you still are, even if you only smoke on occasion) and you’re not viewing it objectively.

    For the record, I hate second-hand smoke and have never smoked but strongly feel smokers have the right to indulge as freely as possible as long as they don’t infringe on the ability of others to pursue necessary tasks. I do pick and choose restaurants, coffee shops, and whatnot which are non-smoking but don’t be-grudge those that allow it. I just avoid those places. I figure the economics of making your establishment one or the other will sort things out.

  • Kai

    I grew up around people who smoke… I’m not particularly allergic to it, but I don’t like the smell. In public places I don’t frown upon smokers–it’s none of my beeswax what other people suck into their lungs so long as they don’t puff it out right in my face. It can boil down to tolerance, I suppose.

    Not being able to smoke in a bar turns off a lot of smokers… after all, it’s a place for entertainment. So, I agree with you and Shari. This ordinance isn’t particularly appropriate.

    On the other hand, I had to read some news articles on health lifestyles for a class several weeks ago and I can across this one in CNN, ” Smokers drag down a workplace, study says”:

    I have no personal experience with regards to that because I’m a student… but I remembered it when I read your blog today. ^_^

  • Shari – Maybe I didn’t make it clear enough. When a bar still has smoking, the non-smokers can go into the bar at any time of their choosing.

    When smoking is banned, the smokers do tend to leave (as evidenced by my Uncle’s experience) and not be replaced by non-smokers.

    The voting in of the ban gives them the perceived “option” of going to the bar, but evidence supports that all those who vote for it don’t choose the option to follow through with their newly won “smoke free” environment.

  • DanI in K-ville

    I was very sick as a child because my dad smoked in the house, so i know how it feels when people smoke around me,
    but i believe it is their Right to be able to smoke where ever they want.
    if i go to a restaurant, i KNOW there are smokers there, i understand it, so i get a non smoking table as far away from it, or i just suck it up, if i wanna eat there, i don’t care if their is smoke.
    If anything, make it where on the smoker side more vents to suck up the smoke, my dad did that in the basement of our house so it wouldn’t come upstairs to where i was at.
    Or make it during a certain time where they cannot smoke,
    when most likely children will be there, but after a certain time, people may smoke.
    Employees know when they apply that a place is smoke free or not, if they have a problem with they should not apply there, or talk to the manager to work the shifts with the less amount of smokers.

    and the breaks employees get for smoking… i know people that STARTED smoking so they could get breaks. thats the employers fault, complain to them about making mandatory breaks for all.