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Six Things Portland Should Know Before Banning Smoking

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[Editor's note: Bradley Steinbacher is a writer for Seattle's The Stranger.]

Last November, Washington State overwhelmingly passed Initiative 901 (I-901), which banned smoking from all public spaces—including bars and clubs. Naturally, in the weeks before the vote, expected rhetoric came from both sides. But now that the law has been on the books for close to a year, six lessons have been learned.

(1) BANNING SMOKING WILL NOT MAKE SMOKERS MAGICALLY DISAPPEAR

Many smoking ban proponents are anti-smoking zealots. Some have lost a loved one to cancer, and others simply find the act unforgivably disgusting. Both camps will rightly feel emboldened if a smoking ban is passed.

That sense of victory may turn out to be short-lived, however, once the true effect of the smoking ban comes to light: Smoking, and smokers, while no longer polluting your lungs indoors, will be even more in your face. You will see them huddled outside nearly every doorstep, toxic clouds wafting into the air, and generally making themselves inescapable. Which brings us to...

(2) PORTLAND'S SIDEWALKS WILL TURN INTO ONE BIG ASHTRAY

Washington's I-901 contained a provision for a 25-foot rule, which, in theory, would force smokers to stand at least 25 feet away from any open doors/windows/ventilation. Mainly this provision is ignored (see #4), but by merely being part of the law, it has scared many bars and clubs into not providing proper ashtrays/reasonable disposal options for their smoking customers. More people smoking on the sidewalks with fewer places to throw away their butts make for a dirty city.

(3) NON-SMOKERS WHO CLAIM THEY'LL START FREQUENTING BARS ARE FULL OF SHIT

Generally, those who are rabidly anti-smoking tend to be healthier individuals, which means promises of packed bars and skyrocketing business will quickly prove to be a canard. True, some people will go out more often, but the blip in business will be minor.

(4) DO NOT ENACT A 25-FOOT RULE—IN FACT, DON'T ENACT A FOOT RULE AT ALL

Crammed into the initiative by a true anti-smoking fanatic, Washington State's 25-foot rule is completely idiotic. Setting aside the sheer inability for the rule to be enforced (crowded city blocks mean that if followed to the letter, the rule would force smokers to stand in the middle of the street to comply), the 25-foot rule also allows police and city officials to unfairly harass bars and clubs they deem unsavory (read: black people frequent them).

(5) BE PREPARED FOR WHAT BARS—AND YOUR FELLOW PATRONS—REALLY SMELL LIKE

Alcohol, beer especially, makes most people gassy. Many bar regulars don't have impeccable personal hygiene. Cigarette smoke helps to dampen both issues.

(6) AND FINALLY, BE PREPARED TO REALLY ENJOY THE NON-SMOKING ATMOSPHERE

Take it from someone who was steadfastly against Washington's smoking ban before it was enacted: The ability to breathe in a bar, the fact that your clothes don't smell like an ashtray after an evening out, and the lack of unwanted cigarette hangovers—each has made going out to punish my liver all the more enjoyable.

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