Monday, February 22, 2010

Solutions to the Smoking Ban

By Gamal Hennessy

One of the
most contentious issues in New York nightlife this year, or in the past 7 years, is the ban on smoking. It draws the wrath of local residents down on club owners who follow the law. It generates animosity between smokers and non smokers in venues that don’t throw smokers outside. In extreme cases, venues are having their liquor licenses threatened and might be forced to close based on the actions of their patrons. Seven years under the current regulations have exposed problems in the system. What are the solutions that can serve the interests of everyone involved?

Outside vs. Inside
The smoking ban adds to the tension between club owners and local residents because when smokers are pushed outside it sets off a
cycle of disruption and noise. You might think that a few people standing outside a venue will not substantially increase the level of street noise, but that concept only considers the smokers themselves. Smokers, especially attractive female smokers, provide a powerful incentive for groups of male fanatics to hang out in front of a club (especially if they couldn’t get in or got thrown out.) In a twisted effort to get noticed and prove their sexual superiority, these individuals will shout, get into fights, honk their horns if they are in their cars, or try to talk to girls from their cars and back up traffic behind them, which causes other cars to blow their horns. Fortunately for residents who live near the club, this mating cacophony will die down when the girls finish smoking and go back inside, but it will begin again when the next group of girls comes out of the club to take their place. If you change the law so smokers are not smoking out on the street in front of a bar, you reduce the negative impact the venue has on local residents.

Smokers vs. Non Smokers
Once you bring the smoking issue back within the four walls of the venue, accommodations need to be made to
separate the smokers from the non-smokers. Published reports and anecdotal evidence suggest that a substantial number of non smoking nightlife patrons do not want to mix with active smokers indoors. To create physical separation, venues with separate rooms can designate the room furthest in the back as a smoking area. This will prevent non-smokers from having to travel through a nicotine cloud to get to their part of the club. Venues without separate rooms could have pressurized walls put in to create mini rooms inside the venue. As long as these rooms were properly ventilated and otherwise conformed to local building codes, smokers could smoke indoors and still be separated from the rest of the patrons and operators.

Clear the Air
Even if smokers were brought back inside and separated from the general population of patrons, something would have to be done with the smoke coming out of the smoking room in order for second hand smoke to be eliminated as a health and odor concern. Technology can provide the best solution here. There are
air filtration systems on the market that have been approved by the Department of Health and are currently used by infectious disease wards in hospitals to clean the air. These systems reportedly are the size of a humidifier and one of them can keep 1,250 square feet of interior air cleaner than the air in Central Park, even if 60% of the people are smoking inside. If the law was modified and operators created separate spaces for smokers and installed air filtration units in the club, smokers could smoke without creating unnecessary noise for residents or an additional health hazard for patrons.

Targets the Actors, Not the Scene
There is only so much that an operator can do to stop smoking in their venue. Whether or not the city decides to allow for a more reasonable approach to the ban, one thing that needs to change is the parties that are punished for ignoring the ban. Under the current system, the patron ignores the ban and the operator is punished. There is no real disincentive for the patron to either continue smoking or to go to another venue to smoke. If the
onus was placed on the smoker, if the Department of Health or some other organization that has enforcement powers fined the smoker instead of the bar, then the smokers might think twice before lighting up. I am not advocating DOH monitors in every venue. I am pointing out that any group that can act and know that someone else will be punished for their action has little reason to change their behavior.

Cities around the world are coming to the conclusion that open smoking in venues is no longer acceptable. But protecting public health does not have to lead to detrimental effects on nightlife. There are solutions that the current ban does not utilize. Failing to modify the law to take these options into account hurts everyone both inside the clubs and outside of them. It is time to move past the entrenched positions of City Hall to develop a plan that addresses the reality of the situation.

Have fun.


Michael J. McFadden said...

All good points Gamal, but you I think you may have internalized a bit more of the antismoking rhetoric than you might realize. The number of nonsmoking patrons who would object to being in a well ventilated bar/restaurant/club with smokers is probably smaller than you realize, particularly once they've experienced what such space sharing in a decently ventilated venue is actually like.

Also, in terms of "cities around the world coming to a conclusion..." you should be aware that it's not so much that they've come to the conclusion as that political pressures have forced them to implement bans that the populaces would never have supported themselves - particularly not the populaces most affected in the pubs and clubs.

You are of course correct in your perception of the effectiveness of air cleaning and filtration, but the Antismokers don't care about that: secondhand smoke was never the real motivation for the ban to begin with. If it *WAS* the real motivation then the politicians (Silver and Bruno?) wouldn't have instantly shot down the idea of allowing non-staffed, separately ventilated, comfortable smoking rooms several years ago.

That does not mean your situation is hopeless. It's much more difficult now than if the bars had stood firmly together in 2002 and simply said "no" to being coerced to act as unpaid and untrained enforcers of a law they didn't like, but it's still possible. Ohio bars have just won that legal victory, and your own bars in Suffolk NY won it about 5 years ago. It's beyond my comprehension why TUFF and the NY bar groups haven't followed up on this before, but there's always hope for the future.

Part of what you will need to do though is educate your staffs and the wider public about the lies that the ban was based on. The cheapest way to do that effectively is with the "New Stiletto" at:

The Stiletto, when used as directed, will make people angry about how they have been manipulated and lied to and will give them the energy and committment to fight. You can print it out and bind it yourself for free, or order them. I'm also happy to freely customize them for any campaign you are working on. Brains is a good supplement/adjunct and can be fairly cheap in quantity, but free Stiletto should be your initial foundation.

Best of luck and keep on fighting!

Michael J. McFadden,
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"

Michael J. McFadden said...

Whooops! I'd forgotten that I'd written a fair amount of that stuff already in my note to the TUFF group yesterday! LOL! I get the different pots on my stove mixed up sometimes! Sorry about that! (No need to publish this note!)


Blake Persson said...

The best solution for smokers in my opinion is electronic cigarette, they can move to these devices, they are not only safe but will also help you to quit smoking.

Gavin Timothy said...

There are many other ways than just imposing smoking bans, the government finds it easy rather than kicking out the tobacco companies who pay high taxes to remain in the markets.

Tatiana Rodriguez said...

During my ten years of smoking i tried numerous times to quit this habit but always failed so i know how difficult it is to give up smoking but what worked for me was the switch to electronic cigarette, they helped me to quit and now i can smoke with freedom.