Smokers Beware

Smokers Beware

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Smokers Beware

Paul Benko puts on his shirt and tie and begins the 15-minute walk to work. He is going to a job that has become a little bit more enjoyable since May 5, 2003. Benko, a non-smoker, has been happier at work as the manager of Our House East, a small bar on the Northeastern Campus in Boston, given that this bar no longer can allow smoking inside.

“It used to get really smoky inside and was hard to breathe sometimes because it was so busy and everyone was smoking,” Benko said. “I would have to dry-clean my work clothes every week because all my nice shirts reeked of smoke.”

The lack of a specified smoking section also caused this small campus bar to become extremely filled with smoke.

“People used to walk around smoking, talking, and drinking,” Benko said. “It was gross and people used to burn each other all the time.”

According to an Environmental Protection Agency study, nearly 3,000 people die each year from second-hand smoke. Much exposure to second-hand smoke is caused by having a spouse or co-workers who smoke or working in a place where anyone can smoke. The ban was instated to protect those non-smoker lungs and the lungs of children.

“It was decided that people should not have to decide between their health and their jobs,” said Gifford Miller, New York City Council Speaker, when he announced New York City was going smoke free.

A study done by the World Health Organization showed workplace exposure to second-hand smoke gave a 17 percent increased chance in developing lung cancer. While this number was not considered statistically significant it is still an unnecessary increase.

Each year Massachusetts spends $4.8 million on tobacco prevention, control, and awareness programs, according to the American Lung Association.

Besides the smoking ban, the biggest fight against smoking has been the tax rate. Massachusetts state law requires a tax of $1.51 per pack of cigarettes; one of the highest in the United States.

Massachusetts is not the first place to fight for smoke-free air. Norway was first place in the world to ban smoking in all public places and Britain is in the process of creating a similar law.

In the U.S., California and Delaware already have statewide bans of smoking in all indoor workplaces. Maine bans smoking in restaurants and many other states such as Montana, Arizona, and West Virginia are seeing individual cities and towns go smoke-free.

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New York City is one of the most controversial places where smoking has been recently banned.

New York City began enforcing its citywide smoking ban on March 30, 2003. The Smoke Free Air Act banned smoking in all indoor workplaces including bars and restaurants.

According to an article at, people tried to quit smoking after the ban took place. This was seen through a large boost in the sale of products such as gum and patches that help stop nicotine cravings. This boost was seen for about two weeks before it plummeted and people began to rebel against the ban.

"This is not a polite town. We have hard drinkers and hard smokers here. Bloomberg might think it's a good idea to give up smoking, but you take away the soul of this place if you start ordering people to think and act the same as you.” said Vincent Autuori, owner of Hank’s Saloon in New York City. "New Yorkers should be able to choose to go to hell their own way. This is about a city’s rights.”

Autuori tells this to his customers when they complain about his rebellion against the ban. He refuses to reprimand anyone caught smoking in his restaurant but customers can call in their own complaints. While Autuori has not yet been fined, there were over 600 reported cases of restaurant owners being fined within the first six months of the ban.

One problem often seen is the noise level that rises through the night of the people outside smoking. A loitering law was instated a few years ago to keep people off the streets and to lower crime rates. This law has now been counter-acted with the smoking ban placing more people on the streets later at night and often while drinking.

Coan Nichols, a film-maker and regular the Old Town Bar, said to Julian Coman for, "Now New York is, like, nerdy. When you're in a bar, it's going to be like California. All the action is outside."

The ban also states any smoker must be at least 20 feet from the prohibited area and this limit forces people to move into residential areas. In the last six months, over 100 complaints were called in due to smokers talking too loud.

Fights outside of bars have also increased since smoking has been taken outside. With the drinking, many people can become more hostile especially when they are forced to go outside in extreme temperatures. At Guernica Bar in Manhattan’s East Village, one bouncer was fatally stabbed in an argument where two men refused to put out their cigarettes before re-entering the bar.

One Manhattan chef, Sandro Fioriti, who works at Serafina Sandro Bistro, has resorted to cooking with tobacco. A favorite dish of customers is gnocchi filled with Empire English special blend tobacco.

"A lot of people are frustrated with the idea that Mr. Bloomberg is ruining their nights out," said Mr Fioriti in an interview with Coman. "This was a way to allow them to express that frustration and it's proved so popular we're going to keep it on. And tobacco dishes leave a very interesting aftertaste. It gives the food a kick."

Boston has yet to resort to this method but is still suffering many of the same problems as seen in New York.

“We call the cops almost every night,” Benko said. “We need to get the people out of here at 2 a.m. and there is always a fight. People think because they’re outside they won’t get in trouble.”

Henry Vara, owner of Our House East and partner in Vara Management Inc. which owns many bars in the Boston area, has also seen many problems grow. He agrees it is a better environment but says some of the major problems are not worth it. These major problems include fighting, noise complaints, people walking out on bar tabs, and general loss of business.

“We’re losing the little customers you don’t think matter,” Vara said. “Those people that come in for a drink, a smoke, and a good conversation with friends. They could be two old women in the corner who smoke a pack and drink a lot like they’ve been doing for years. No one usually notices them but they’re money we don’t have coming in anymore.”

In the first six months two Boston Bars closed due to the ban, The Aloha Tavern and J.C. Grear’s Restaurant.

However bars and restaurants are not the only places affected by the ban. Some companies are not affected at all where as some company’s fate lies in the smoking ban.

Places already non-smoking obviously are not affected much. A small increase in business was seen in pre-ban smoke-free places such as delicatessens, bakeries, fast food restaurants, and take-out places. Take-out places have seen the largest increase according to a study done by the Foundation for Economic Education.
Smoking is less common in wealthier people, says the FEE. Therefore, places catering to an upscale crowd are less likely to see little if any decreases due to the ban.

However, the working-class places such as taverns and diners are highly affected. Eighty to 90 percent of the patrons at these places are smokers.

Places located on the wrong side of the border that separates a smoking city and non-smoking city are highly affected. The FEE, says these businesses are being absolutely destroyed where as the businesses on the other side of the border are seeing record high numbers in sales.

There are also other places highly affected that no one would normally think about such as pavilions, concert halls, event arenas, bingo halls, and bowling alleys. These are social atmospheres and many people will not attend if they are not able to smoke.

Bowling alleys pose an odd problem, shoes. When renting bowling shoes it is not as easy to just step outside but instead you must change your shoes twice in order to have one smoke.

Laurel Bowling Alley in San Luis Obispo, CA, was a successful business for 34 years. When the statewide smoking ban took place, 385 league bowlers quit bowling. The alley lost $200,000 in revenues and struggled for one year before it closed for good after 34 years.

Businesses that are suffering from severe losses included restaurant distributing companies, pool halls, businesses that make jukeboxes, pool tables, dart machines, video games, and air-cleaner systems just to name a few.

As of May 5, 2003 Boston was a smoke free city but according to the American Lung Association, a ban of smoking is not new legislation in Boston or its surrounding areas.

The smoking regulation first took place in 1946 with Massachusetts General Law Chapters 54 and 73. These laws stated that smoking was not allowed at polls during election time or at places where public town meetings were held.

The year 1987 brought designated smoking areas in public buildings and no smoking on any grammar and secondary school grounds.

From 1987 to 2003, smoking has slowly been outlawed in many public areas of Massachusetts as well as the rest of the country. Some of these places include retail stores, government owned buildings, and public offices. The only places not included in these laws were privately owned businesses, specifically restaurants.

September 30, 1998 was the first installment of Boston’s smoking ban in restaurants and bars. There was no smoking in places serving food with the exception of places that had full liquor licenses or brewery pubs. The places that were exempt still had to create a 6-foot partition to separate the smoking bar area from the dining area.

Neighboring towns of Boston are already a step ahead of Boston with the fight for clean air. Brookline has been smoke free for the past seven years. Boston caught up on May 5, 2003 with the enforcement of the Clean Air Works Workplace Smoking Restrictions which prohibits smoking in all indoor workplaces including restaurants and bars.
Now citizens are speaking out against the smoking ban. While the air is cleaner, citizens of Framingham want their rights. This is why they sued the Massachusetts State Government. The suit was dropped but it pushed back legislation on a possible statewide ban until July 2004.

So will Massachusetts ever be completely smoke free? Time will tell and we will see if people will fight for their rights by rebelling or if people will consider their health as well as the health of others in making Massachusetts a better state in which to breathe.
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