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January 5, 2006

hypersensitive DC residents gleeful about impending smoke ban

I'm home and feeling congested and irritable today, so I write about the hopeful ban on cigarette smoke in restaurants and bars in The District. It's still up for a possible veto from the mayor, or override from Congress, which would be even more irritating than being sat next to a table of chain smokers in a bar. The ban is set to activate a year from now, so start your smoking cessation programs now if you can't handle not smoking in bars.

I for one cannot wait until DC catches up with New York, San Francisco and Spain. I'm fairly certain I'd go out more often, or at least I'd stay out longer anyway. I'm just becoming more and more intolerant of coming home smelling like smoke. The stuff even seeps into your skin, which totally grosses me out. While trying to breathe in smoky bars, my throat goes dry, my nose itches and congests, and if I'm wearing contacts, my eyes dry up and on some occasions contacts have popped out spontaneously when my tear ducts retreat from the smoke. While I'm not allergic, I do have a very good sense of smell. I know who you've been making out with, by the way - he uses Perry Ellis 360 brand cologne. While I'm on a rant, you Queens take it easy on the cologne - it's not to be bathed in, only lightly spritzed on your body. Spray, delay, away.

I've noticed as I glare balefully at smokers, most of the time they are not actually inhaling the stuff - the damn cigarettes just sit there and smoulder, comforting them in some way while making my eyes burn and my clothes stink. At least work harder at killing yourself - inhale more frequently and deeply to filter out that crap in your own lungs.

Smoking on beaches is also nasty - and I'm all for banning the practice there too. I want to smell the ocean, not someone smoking a quarter mile upwind. And the sand does not absorb your butts, so pick them up and take them with you. If you've ever worked at cleaning up outside a restaurant, you will find that smokers almost universally believe that their butts somehow disappear magically.

Other stupid smoking habits: huddling around the entrance of a building where the outside air is getting sucked through the same doors. All the smoke just goes right in anyway. Or the addict who cannot wait until he/she leaves the Metrorail terminal, lighting up as he/she ascends the escalator, exhaling that first satisfying gasp of toxin which blows back down into my face and into the train station.

Particulates from other forms of incendiaries are often larger and less irritable to the mucous membranes and other sensitive areas of your bodies. Cigar and wood smoke, for example, is less irritable to me than cigarette smoke. I'm guessing cigarette smoke may have tiny enough smoke particles that happen to irritate the hell out of me. As for smoke-specific establishments like cigar and hookah bars, let them keep smoking there, where smokers will be banished just as smoke-irritable folk like me were once exiled to smoke-free establishments.

Back in college I had a co-op as a park ranger in the Quad Cities area, where I was surprised to find that the fairly large metropolitan area consisting of Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa and Moline/East Moline and Rock Island in Illinois, and surrounding communities still allowed leaf burning within city limits. The practice was particularly hard on asthmatics, who had built a somewhat powerful health advocacy group to ban the practice. Some days the entire region had a visible haze at street level. I see they are still working to fight for a smoke-free city in Moline, but some stalwart patriots think it's just weaklings whining:

"I'm aware people have health problems, but they're the minority. I thought the government should be for the majority of the people," argues Don Madson.

Yes, let the asthmatics, hypersensitive, and other infirm suffer, and keep on burnin'.

Posted by jimbo at January 5, 2006 12:37 PM


Note, it's not just San Francisco but all of California that has banned smoking pretty much anywhere indoors (unless you slip into the Viper Room at 3:00 a.m. - I think they just choose to pay the fine). I still remember a flight attendant welcoming us to to Los Angeles and reminding us that you cannot smoke in the terminal or, in fact, pretty much anywhere in the state.

Incidentally, I agree smoke-free is very nice. As Eddie Izzard points out though, we must be careful. Pretty soon you won't be allowed to talk or drink in bars.

Posted by: Boo AUgustus at January 5, 2006 1:58 PM

Yeah, it must have been terrible coming home from you B-day party smelling like smoke.

So much for free choice and letting consumer demand drive the market. I guess that since Bush is making this country a dictatorship, might as well have DC follow suit.

Yes...I smoke and I am an economist. :P

Posted by: Jason at January 5, 2006 2:01 PM

Gee, you weren't kidding about being irritable today! If the smoking ban in DC isnt' a done deal yet, look out for a rearguard action from the dry-cleaning industry. I'm convinced they're secretly funding most opposition to anti-public-smoking ordinances, in cahoots with the sweater lobby.

Posted by: Chris at January 5, 2006 4:24 PM

It will be interesting to see how many establishments decide to become cigar bars or suddenly offer hookahs to their clients in an effort to gain an exemption to the ban (both cigar and hookah bars are exempt under the provision.....and any bar that experiences economic hardship after six months under the ban will be able to petition the mayor's office for an exemption as weel).

I agree with Jason regarding consumer demand. There are already a few bars that have implemented smoking bans (HR-57 and Cafe Saint-Ex anyone?). Non-smokers who can't stand the smoke should frequent them and/or not frequent bars that allow smoking, letting management know why. With so many adamant non-smokers out there and so many people complaining about smoky bars you would think that simple supply and demand would solve the issue instead of forcing these people to hide behind their so-called concern for the health of said establishment's employees.......

And for disclosure purposes, I am a former smoker who sometimes has to leave smoky bars because of the temptation.........and I still don't want it banned.......

Posted by: jaredd at January 5, 2006 4:24 PM

I'm a smoker (although I hate saying that, and I quit for New Year's), and I'm actually fine with the concept of non-smoking bars, restaurants, etc. I just wish they could make some sort of special license for some bars, like the Eagle. Technically it's not a cigar bar, but c'mon, the Eagle without smoke is just wrong. Or at least allow smoking on the 3rd floor or something.

That's all I ask. JRs, Cobalt, Lantern, Titan can all go smoke-free, but the I expect smoke at the Eagle.

Posted by: stebbins at January 5, 2006 5:52 PM

Crank on Jimbo! I'm with ya! If it's not some sort of smoke bar- cigar, hookah, old-befuddled-professors with pipes, then the rest of us should be free of the nasty carcinogenic stench.

Posted by: 'monster at January 5, 2006 7:08 PM

I'm hoping that my county will ban smoking in bars this year. I know I'd be more inclined to go out if that happens.

Posted by: homer at January 5, 2006 8:31 PM

been banned in Maine for some time now...love it.

Posted by: 207guy at January 6, 2006 6:31 AM

I'm w/ya Jimbo. A lot of smokers think they have some right to pollute up the air inside closed spaces. It really boils down to being considerate. You wouldn't like it if someone spit in your face. Most non-smokers look at it the same way.

It's nice going out to a bar/restaurant here and coming home not having to seal my clothes in a plastic bag till wash day. If you wanna smoke, it is certainly your right however, doesn't give you an excuse to be rude/inconsiderate to others.

And stop throwing your cig butts on the ground. It's still littering!

Posted by: moby at January 6, 2006 3:22 PM

Forgive me for fanning the fire, or perhaps the ash as it may be, but why is it people get so up in arms and start spouting off about civil liberties and the injustices brought by a smoking ban? Pragmatism rules here - smokers still have a choice, smoke at home, smoke outside & feel free to smoke yourself silly...

And a message to Mark Lee, gay promoter and anti-ban cheerleader - WHERE are the gay men going to flee to in order to smoke and drink? Where? Montgomery or PG County? Nope - banned. Think there will be an exodus to Virginia??? Riiiiiiiiight - I think one night at Freddies will send any smoker to clamor for the patch or stand outside the back of JR's!

Posted by: TOS at January 6, 2006 8:48 PM