Up in Smoke

Iowa Debates Anti-Smoking Law

Today the Iowa House of Representatives is set to debate the latest anti-smoking law to come across the table. The new law would ban smoking in restaurants and bars, with the exception of casinos (because, apparently, they donate a lot of money to politicians, and they’re a grand source of tax revenue) and small privately-owned bars (such as veterans clubs).

I have mixed emotions on this… I smoked for 25 years. I started my one and a half pack a day addiction in my teens and couldn’t shake it until just two and a half years ago. (In fact, that’s why I started this blog in the first place — to give me something to do in the middle of the night when the cravings hit. Here’s one of my earlier posts if you’re interested. The photos disappeared for some reason, but I’m not too worried about that.) So smoking and I have a long history…

When I was in high school I had to go to Smokers Anonymous so I could stay on the wrestling and cross-country teams. I was the only one in SA… I eventually quit sports.

I joined the Army National Guard the day I turned 17. I remember taking a carton of cigarettes with me to Basic Training. They took them away from me… For the first week we were there we couldn’t smoke, so we all chewed tobacco. As soon as we earned smoking privileges we all started right back up. In an odd sociological twist, out of the 52 men in my platoon only about 15 or so smoked when we started basic training — but 49 smoked by the time we finished ten weeks later. The Army had a bad habit of giving us the occasional smoke break, only to walk past us as we stood there happily puffing away and point at two or three guys at random to go do some chore or errand. Invariably the Drill Instructors would choose people who weren’t smoking, possibly because they looked like they weren’t doing anything. So many people started smoking simply to avoid the extra duties the DIs were handing out to non-smokers. I don’t think this was a conscious thing on the sergeants’ part, but it was very much apparent. (All my Drill Sergeants smoked, by the way, as did all the officers.)

A few years later, back in Iowa, I was sorely upset when the state banned smoking in government buildings — including the armory. I was very used to having an ashtray on my desk whilst at drills.

When I was a freshman in college, I remember being bitterly disappointed when they banned smoking in the classrooms (yes, at one point a college kid could smoke in a lecture, believe it or not) just the year before. My sophomore or junior year they banned smoking in any campus building except the Student Union and individual dorms, and I used my position on the school newspaper to holler indignantly that “smokers are people too” and should be given at least a “smoking closet” or some area indoors where they could smoke without bothering others. It seemed cruel to me for the administration to make us go stand outside in the snow… And I was used to doing my homework in the library with a cigarette smoldering next to me. I took the “No Smoking” signs personally, and bristled.

Once I graduated and landed the job of my dreams here at the print shop I was happy to see that everyone had an ashtray within arm’s reach. My kinda place! But my joy was short-lived… Within six months the company had merged and moved to a different building, where I had to walk all the way to the back room (six feet from my desk) to smoke. My co-workers often complained about the smell of my cigarettes wafting through the open door into the office, but I found the necessary temerity to ignore their whining. A few years later the bosses told us we could only smoke in the break room or outside. Shortly after that they told us to go outside. I was NOT happy.

But here’s the funny part… Every time someone limited the areas where I could smoke, I complained bitterly about my rights being trampled upon, but within days I was used to the new routine and it no longer bothered me. In fact, I found that I actually enjoyed having to go outside to smoke — it forced me to get away from my desk for a few minutes, and I noticed that I didn’t smoke as much as I had previously. In 2001 or 2002, both Dagmar and I quit smoking in our own house. We voluntarily went outside to smoke… Our house stunk, to be honest, and the walls were changing color, turning from “Misty Alpine Fog” to “Dingy Tan.” I still smoked in the car, but not in the house.

In July 2005 I smoked my last cigarette. I still have urges occasionally, but the horrible physical cravings are gone. When I see photos of myself from years past it surprises me that in nearly every photo I have a cigarette… I didn’t know it was such a pervasive part of my life. I’m glad I’m done with it.

So how do I feel about the proposed ban? Well, as I said earlier, I have mixed feelings… The first thing I thought when I heard about the ban was “FINALLY I can go to a club and watch a band without having to deal with cigarettes and feeling all congested and stinky the next day! Thank God! Maybe now Dagmar and I can go to a restaurant. Boy, it’s gonna be GOOD to be able to get back out into society again!” That’s how ninety-five percent of me feels — relieved and happy at the prospect of smoke-free establishments. The other five percent feels a little guilty, like I’m turning my back on my former life, flip-flopping my morals of 20+ years ago. I took a stand for years that smokers have a right to a smoking room in every public building. Now that I no longer smoke, do I change that stand? Is that wrong? I dunno…

It would probably surprise some of our friends, but Dagmar and I sometimes stay home simply to avoid the smoke. When we make plans, the subject invariably comes up… “What do you want to do? Shall we go downtown for a beer and see a band, or shall we go out to eat?” I’ll ask. “Well,” she’ll respond, “if we go see a band it’ll be all smoky and stinky…” We don’t mind if our friends smoke outside or in another room, but it does bother us to be around cigarette smoke. It makes my lungs hurt, both Dagmar and I will have headaches and sore throats the following day, and, quite frankly, it gives me cravings. So I’d rather avoid it if possible.

I’m struggling with people’s rights and freedoms. Does your freedom to smoke trump my freedom to want clean air? After all, I’m free to stay home if I want, but smokers are also free to go outside to enjoy a cigarette.

Is a ban a good thing? Sure it is. I support it — it would make life better and easier for Dagmar and myself, and would make the state a little healthier. But a little piece of me thinks it would be okay to have a separate room for smokers… A well-ventilated room on the other side of the bar, preferably… I’m really, REALLY looking forward to being able to go out and have a beer in a smoke-free environment, and I’m a little sad that my favorite place (the Legion club in Le Mars) will be exempt from the rule. I would never tell the combat veteran sitting at the bar in a veterans’ club that he couldn’t sit and have a beer and a cigarette in peace, but I am a little sad that I’ll still have to endure cigarette smoke. (Like I said, I still get cravings when I smell a cigarette. It makes me twitchy, rude, and generally anxious and vaguely unhappy.)

I’ll leave you with two statements. The first is that I’m NOT trying to start a debate here — I don’t mean to upset anyone, I’m just sorting through my feelings on the issue. The second is that when I did smoke, I quickly readjusted to whatever laws or rules were in place, and it soon became second-nature for me to follow the rules and be content.

If you’re reading this on Facebook, you can see the original blog at www.radloffs.net, click on “Blog.”

20 thoughts on “Up in Smoke

  1. The Guv'ner

    We have the smoking ban in NYC. we’ve had it for about five years now maybe? When it first passed people were PISSED TO THE MAX. Whine whine whine. Then, like you said, they got used to it in about two days. Now it’s just the norm.

    I have to say as a non-smoker, I love that I can now sit in a bar with my friends all night and not come home stinking of smoke. It’s wonderful. It actually used to keep me out of certain places because I couldn’t stand the smell. on recent UK trip I was in a pub and had to leave after an hour as the smoke was so bad. Plus no one wants to eat around that smell. Bars could have segregated rooms for smokers and non smokers I guess but the ban is really there for the staff of those places, not the public. People who work in clubs had a higher incidence of illness.

    Anyway, I approve of the ban wholeheartedly. People have the right to do whatever unhealthy pastime they wish but when it affects ME it’s no longer their right. That’s what I think.

    The Guv has spoken. Kindly bow. 🙂

  2. Anonymous

    We, too, stopped going out to see bands or hang out at a bar because we didn’t want to reek of smoke and have to shower before going to bed. Showering after a few drinks at midnight isn’t as fun as it could be. And, the phlegm issues the next morning are a turn off, too.

    I whole-heartedly support the ban. I would love to go out and socialize without becoming stinky.

    That said, until it goes through, or if it doesn’t go through, you’re always welcome to come to our house. We have beer.


  3. ~:*:*:Pixie:*:*:~

    Well… I have mixed emotions too. We’ve had the state-wide ban in effect for over a year now. It requires smokers to stay 20 feet from the main entrance of any building. Some businesses have had the opportunity to install misting systems, fans and outdoor seating for the “smokers”… a couple of friends who were business owners (bars) have gone out of business. My feeling is it should have been left up to the business owners. In retrospect and in defense of non-smokers: I cannot stand people smoking when I’m eating. CANT STAND IT. Bars… my feeling is, if you’re worried about smoke, you ought to also be worried about alcohol. I smoke. I don’t do it around my daughter, ever. I wouldn’t take my daughter to a bar either. Having a clean, smoke-free environment when she eats out is important.

    I don’t go out anymore… but that happened way before the smoking ban… and I know the ban hopped business up at The Monastery (completely outdoor pub).

    My only concern is I still believe business owners should have had some say in whether or not it was allowed within their establishment… what’s done is done and “survival of the fittest” and all that.

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

  4. The Guv'ner

    Pix: I have nothing against people smoking and think it’s a personal choice, I just think in public places where it affects everyone, it’s fair to regulate it.

    I really just hate the stink on my hair and clothes after being out in a smoky environment. As anon said up there, showering at midnight = no fun! :):)

  5. Chris

    Update: Turns out someone forgot to file a piece of paper, so the state legislature had to cancel the debate, rescheduling for next week provided the paperwork is filed.

    I want the ban to go through. I saw somewhere (an online newspaper, but I forget which one) that on average 10% of the people in an establishment are smokers, so the ban will only affect 1/10th of the population. However, when just one person in a room lights a cigarette, it affects 100% of the people in the room… I’d guess that of the 10% who smoke, only one or two percent would quit going to bars or clubs. Seems to me that the average bar would gain more business than that, so the establishment would actually come out ahead. That’s assuming, of course, that the “10%” figure is valid. I suspect it may be in some places, but in other bars the figure might be closer to 40 or 50%.

    The ban has been in effect in Nebraska for a while now — or at least it has in Lincoln. I heard, anecdotally, that one bar there solved the problem by simply buying a used school bus and backing it up to the side door of the bar. If you want to smoke, you go to the smoking bus, where you can be out of the weather, but technically you’re still “outside” the bar…

  6. mrsleep

    Drinking beer is good anytime.

    Smoke or no smoke. I’m flexible. I travel to Europe on business about once a year, and the Europeans smoke like crazy.

  7. Leonesse

    As a very occasional smoker, I support the concept wholeheartedly. I do not like smelling other peoples smoke. I am having trouble with how much the word “Ban” is being tossed about for so many things.

    And why are casinos exempt? Money and power. Let the small bars go under, but we need that $$ from the casinos. It should be a FULL BAN or none at all. Off soapbox now.

  8. The Lady Who Doesn't Lunch:

    As a reformed smoker I thoroughly enjoy being able to go out in public and not choke or worse – want to smoke when I see other people doing it.

    My old boss likened 2nd hand smoke to being peed on. If someone asked if he minded if they smoked he’d say “No, do you mind if I pee on you?”

    Maybe he was just a pervert.

  9. ~:*:*:Pixie:*:*:~

    LOL @ Lady… I like your boss *snort*!

    Chris… OMG – the bus is a fantastic idea – I’m going to pass that on!!!

    Guv – I’m kind of a closet smoker… often times when people find out I do smoke the response is something like, “*GASP!* YOU SMOKE? You don’t LOOK like a smoker!” – still trying to figure that one out, LOL!

  10. katrocket

    I’m a smoker, but I support the smoke-free rules. I’m not proud of my filthy habit and I take great pains to hide it, unless I’m around others who smoke. Like NYC, Toronto and most large Canadian cities went smoke free a few years ago. People complained, and then they fell silent.

    The gov’t initially allowed those “smoking rooms” in bars and cafes, but last year they got banned too. Basically it’s like hot-boxing, and when you open the door, a huge plume of smoke would escape into the bar.

    I feel bad for the bar owners who invested a lot of money in renovations, only to have the rules changed a year later. I think bar and restaurant owners should be able to CHOOSE if they wish to allow smoking. Then there could be smoking and non-smoking places to make everyone happy.

  11. Chris

    The only problem with letting the business owners choose for themselves is that they quite simply opt NOT to choose… As far as I know there’s never been a law forcing them to ALLOW smoking.

    I can only think of one restaurant here in Sioux City that’s smoke-free (Charlie’s). I’m sure there are other smoke-free restaurants, but so far as I know there’s not a smoke free bar or club within 80 miles of here…

    Maybe they can alternate days or something — You can smoke in half the bars Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and the other half on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

    It’s a sticky wicket.

  12. Dave

    I smoke. I enjoy it. Funny thing is, I probably enjoy it more now since my work banned smoking in the building. We get 2 15 min breaks a day to go outside & have a smoke. I don’t enjoy smoking then. Try toking down 2 Winstons in 15 minutes. Talk about coming back to work with a BUZZ… Wait! Maybe I DO enjoy smoking then….

    But, I digress. Ban smoking if you wish, but let the business owners make the decision. If you don’t want to got to a smokey bar, don’t. What this is going to come down to, if they pass a statewide ban, is that the bar & resturaunt owners are going to make their businesses PRIVATE CLUBS and you won’t be able to go there anyway. Unless you smoke.

    Smoking is a CHOICE. I choose to smoke, you don’t. But, if the ban goes into place, there will be NO CHOICE. If the business owners are allowed to decide if they want to ban smoking, then we ALL have a choice. Go to a smoking bar, or a non-smoking bar. And we all lived happily ever after.


  13. Chris

    Choice… Gosh I’m glad I’m not the one making these decisions.

    Here’s one for you. You can choose to go to a bar and NOT smoke, but I can’t go to a bar and choose to NOT breath.

    Another thought. We have laws that prevent me from hurting you. For example, I can’t shoot you in the foot, or throw darts at you, or punch you. It’s illegal, because, well, it’d hurt you and would cause damage. It’s proven that smoke is bad for you, even second-hand smoke — it hurts people. So why is it legal for you to smoke in public? If it’s legal for you to smoke in public, is it okay for me to throw darts at you while you do so?

    Again, I’m not trying to start an argument here, I’m just kinda thinking out loud. It’s not like I’m a zealot about this or anything — I’m not gonna go around ripping cigarettes out of peoples’ mouths (man, nothing used to make me madder faster than having some health nazi snag my cigarette out of my mouth and give me a self-righteous lecture; I came close to punching a few people who did that to me) — I’m just thinking out loud. I honestly do see both sides of the issue, and have been on both sides. A few years ago I would have been appalled at the thought of a ban. Now I support it. Who knows what I’ll think in another five years…

  14. Bluzlover

    As an occasional cigar smoker and previous bar owner, I agree that this is a tough issue. In Lincoln, NE, the bill was voted on by the public in a general election. Cool, let the masses have their say. A smoking ban passed by the way. I know bar owners there who said it hurt their business initially, but not long term. If a business owner has paid all of the necessary licenses to operate, he/she should be able to choose how to run the business. Perhaps the government should open smoke-free bars and restaurants at the expense of the taxpayer. As the cost of smokey-treats has gone up, I’ve noticed considerably less smoking. If the government continues to raise the taxes, the problem might take care of itself…NAW!

  15. pistols at dawn

    This is reason #4,032 I hate Vegas: it’s a smoker’s paradise, making it impossible for me to breathe.

    Really, as someone too lazy to do laundry more than once a month, the ban is great for me, but then again, what will angry fathers use to burn their damn kids with now?

  16. Pixie

    I dunno… from my step-father’s law firm website:

    In the single largest damages case in the history of the world, our attorneys were selected by the Arizona Attorney General as the only Arizona law firm to represent the State against American tobacco companies. As a result, Arizona taxpayers will receive more than three billion dollars to cover the costs of treating tobacco-related illnesses, maintain educational programs to prevent young people from smoking, and fund other important State programs.

    I’m the only person in my family that still stinks… the bottom line is: if you smoke, you will die.

    Maybe I’ll quit.

    Thanks, Chris.



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