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A Smoke-Free Vacation

March 19, 2009 Smoke Free, Travel 23 Comments

On Monday I returned from a 9-day trip to the states of Washington & Oregon.  Both are states with bans on smoking in public places. Most of the trip was spent in the City of Seattle.  Going out to eat was never a chore of having to wade through various lists of non-smoking restaurants as I do here.  Instead we could focus on the location, menu and price.

One day was spent visiting the small mountain town of Granite Falls, WA and the bay side town of Poulsbo, WA.  Granite Falls is not a tourist town.  It has only a few restaurants.  Without the smoking ban they few restaurants in town would have all had smoking.  This would leave persons with no choice but to endure the smoke if they wanted to eat out.  Poulsbo, on the other hand, does cater to the tourist crowd so some of its places might have been non-smoking without the ban.    As with Seattle, we could select our dining options based on factors other than smoking.

Saturday we drove to Portland for an overnight stay.  Our downtown hotel was across the street from numerous gay bars.  We visited three that night.  All were very busy.  Gay bars are notoriously smokey.  But these were smoke-free thanks to Oregon’s smoking ban.  We met up with friends for lunch on Sunday but our first choice had a long wait so we went to another restaurant.  If business was hurt by the smoking ban you couldn’t tell.

Smokers outside a Portland gay bar huddle under an umbrella to get out of the rain.
Smokers outside a Portland gay bar huddle under an umbrella to get out of the rain.

Having to seek out non-smoking places is a major hassle.  Not having to worry about finding non-smoking places truly was a vacation.  I’m established here in St. Louis but if I weren’t I’d consider relocating to a state that placed greater importance on the health of the public. I personally don’t care if someone wants to smoke cigarettes (or marijuana) in their home.  I just don’t want to be forced to inhale their smoke while in establishments serving the general public.


KDHX & The Royale Tonight

I’ll be the guest on KDHX’s Collateral Damage program tonight from 7pm to 7:30pm.  Listen at 88.1FM or tune in online.

Afterwards I’m heading over to the smoke-free Royale for some last minute preliminary election conversation.  I might even have a beer.


Voluntarily Smoke-Free Restaurants & Bars

March 2, 2009 Smoke Free 63 Comments

Until we have a local, regional or statewide ban on smoking in public places, businesses are free to make the smoking/non-smoking decision for themselves.  As mentioned in a prior post, I’d like customers to let businesses know they’d appreciate a non-smoking environment.  For me personally, I’m only going to patronize 100% non-smoking establishments.  Last night I opted not to join friends for dinner because they were going to a place that was not 100% smoke-free.

People debate studies regarding the health impacts from second-hand smoke.  They advocate costly filtration systems.  I’m not going to get into that, I don’t need to.  I know that when I visited places that allow smoking I’d leave with a scratchy throat, watery eyes and smelly clothes.  Meals would not smell or taste as good.  No more for me.  Enough businesses have made the decision to have a smoke-free environment that I can go out and enjoy a meal and drink without the hassles I find in smoking places.  For now, each business must make the decision for themselves.  And it is a decision.

I believe for many bar/restaurant owners the decision to allow smoking is made out of fear.  Fear of losing the business of smokers.  Fear of not having the right mood — bars are supposed to be smoky, right?  So they open with smoking in the entire place, in a smoking section or at the bar.  Once they are open with smoking permitted, few voluntarily change their policy.

Just as many non-smokers will go to places that permit smoking, smokers will go to places that do not.  A few places I visit that are non-smoking include Crown Candy Kitchen, Crepes in the City, 10th Street Italian, The London Tea Room, The Fountain on Locust, Sen Thai, Lily’s, 10th Street Italian and The Royale.  The owners of these non-chain businesses voluntarily decided their establishments would be smoke-free.  Their place, their right.

I recently sat down and talked with the owners of two of the above, Steve Smith of The Royale and Mary Deacon of Crepes In The City, about their decisions to have their respective businesses be smoke-free. The Royale is a lively bar/tavern that happens to also serve good food. Crepes in the City is a Creperie that also happens to serve alcohol.  Runtime on this video is 8:51:


As Smith mentioned he was open for three years allowing smoking before going smoke-free on April 1, 2008.  His business has increased since going smoke-free.  He references a study he conducted of his customers before going smoke-free.  It is interesting reading.  A year ago he announced that The Royale would go smoke-free on April 1, 2008.  I’ve seen people cite studies that show a drop in business in areas with new bans.  A few weeks isn’t enough time to judge.  A year is.  I found it interesting that Smith’s employees that smoke welcomed the change to non-smoking.  Thank you to Steve Smith & Mary Deacon for your time and for creating places I enjoy patronizing!

The hospitality industry website RestaurantReport.com has a section on great debates in their industry, one of which is Smoking in Restaurants.  Here is an excerpt:

Like it or not, it’s inevitable that smoking will be illegal in all restaurants sometime in the near future, and we can talk about what’s going to happen to the hospitality business when this law takes effect. And I suspect that most owners would welcome such a law, and it’s even highly possible that business will actually improve.

If you own a restaurant or bar that allows smoking I ask that you do what Steve Smith did, survey as many of your customers as possible.  Find out if they’d come back more or less if you went smoke-free.  Keep in mind your customers may skew toward more smokers because non-smokers like me may not patronize your establishment because of the smoke.   It is a tough economy, can you survive on smokers and non-smokers willing to tolerate being in a smoking environment?  Don’t wait until a ban forces your business and your competition to go smoke-free, do it now and set your business apart from others.

I still advocate a ban ( city/regional/state) but in the meantime I’d like to see more places voluntarily be smoke-free.


Non-Smokers Speak Up For Change!

February 13, 2009 Smoke Free 35 Comments

My recent post requesting a smoking ban for the region & state generated the most comments for a single post for the entire 4+ years I’ve been writing this blog.  While many found smoking to be as equally disgusting as me, others took a more libertarian viewpoint — let customers, business owners and the market — not the government  — decide.  Fine.

I’m no longer going to patronize establishments that permit smoking anywhere. I encourage others to do the same.

The whole non-smoking section is really a joke anyway.  If smoking is allowed indoors with the same ventilation system then the ill-effects of smoking are throughout.

But avoiding smoking places is not good enough.  We non-smokers need to tell the smoking places why we are no longer going to patronize their establishments.  And we need to make sure the non-smoking places we do visit know we are there, in part, because they are 100% non-smoking.  So how do we do this?

First, if you are heading out to dinner call ahead and ask if the establishment is 100% smoke-free.  If the answer is no say something like, “Oh, too bad.  Thank you, but I won’t be eating at your place as long as smoking is permitted.” I know it sounds harsh and perhaps you can suggest different phrasing but they need to understand that allowing smoking costs business.  When you visit a place and they ask “smoking or non-smoking?”  you can respond with, “Oh, I didn’t realize you still allowed smoking.”  Ideally you’d do a 180 and leave.  I did this recently even though I was ready to eat then.  If you don’t want to find another place to eat go with, “I guess we’ll stay this time, please seat us as far away from the smokers as physically possible.”  Remember, most likely the person seating you didn’t make the choice to allow smoking so you don’t want to direct your anger at them.

I’m convinced many restaurant owners only see and count the smokers.  These owners fail to realize they have more non-smoking customers than smoking customers.  Recent reports indicate that less than 20% of U.S. adults smoke (source).  Owners are afraid to ban smoking because they might lose a minority of the population.  They don’t fear losing the non-smokers.  We need to change that.  Instill some fear.

Most places I visit are 100% smoke-free.  But I will stop going to a few places — Chimichanga and City Diner to name a couple — that are not 100% smoke-free.  Since I started writing this post a week ago I’ve found myself in places with smoking allowed at the bar.  It certainly won’t be easy.  Friends might not so understanding when I insist we go elsewhere.  No everyone is comfortable being perceived as confrontational or difficult.  So to help out I’ve created some card templates that can be left behind when you leave.

For those unpleasant places that still allow smoking:


The above language works for contacting restaurants through there websites.  Just copy & paste:

I enjoy your establishment but the presence of cigarette smoke makes the experience less than ideal for me.  I eat out less due to the economy so when I do I want to enjoy it.  Please remove smoking so I can return.

For those awesome places that are smoke-free:


Click each of the above for a PDF document set up with 10 cards per sheet (Avery 5371).  Just print, cut and carry.  Leave them behind at places so they hopefully get the message. It is a tough economy out there and we non-smokers account for 80% of the population.  We don’t need to be subjected to the disgusting addictive habit of the remaining 20% of the population.  We, the complacent non-smokers, have the purchasing power to rid smoking in places.  We just have to speak up.


Can We Please Ban Smoking in the St. Louis Region? Missouri?

I really hate cigarette smoke.  Nothing ruins a good meal like someone puffing away at the next table or even the next room.  But it is not just restaurants  I recently went to a local locksmith to have a key made.  I left smelling like an ashtray.  I can’t meet clients smelling like a smoker.

Illinois has had a smoking ban for a year.  I recently had lunch at a sports bar in Granite City, IL — I was able to breath and enjoy my salad.    Oklahoma requires completely separate closed rooms with different HVAC systems in order to have smoking areas.  Would you like that key made in the smoking or non-smoking section?  Both states as well as others with bans still have open businesses.  Despite what you hear, places do remain open.  Some even thrive.

Of course smoking is addictive.  Just like coffee is.  I don’t like either. But I can have a meal with the person next to me getting their morning coffee fix.  People with destructive addictions need help.

Short of a statewide ban we need a more local ban.  But at what level?  St. Louis City is small relative to the Missouri  side of the region.  St. Louis County has 90+ municipalities and quite a bit of area not in an incorporated municipality.  The City of St. Louis or anyone of the 90+ munis in the county could ban smoking but would that just drive business to a neighboring municipality?  I guess those people who must have a Marlboro with their wings just might change where they will eat.

You may have seen the article, “Smoking ban issue resurfaces in St. Louis County”in the Post-Dispatch on the 26th which talked about a letter from five out of the 90+ mayors in St. Louis County urging the St. Louis County Council to ban smoking county-wide. From the article:

The mayors of five adjacent cities in St. Louis County have reignited the smoking ban issue, asking the County Council to ban smoking in public places. Signing the document were Mayors Joseph L. Adams of University City, Jean Antoine of Olivette, Harold Dielmann of Creve Coeur, Linda Goldstein of Clayton and Mike Schneider of Overland.

Thanks to reader “Jason”, I have the letter for you to read for yourself.  Click here to view the 2-page PDF.

As a patron I have the right to avoid businesses that permit smoking, and I do.  However, employees don’t have that luxury.  To keep their job they are often subjected to second-hand smoke.  When they have lung cancer 20 years later we all pay the price as medical costs are boerne by all either through increased insurance premiums or taxes.

I find visiting regions & states with bans more pleasant.  No need to pop into places to ask if they prohibit smoking.  We are competing with many regions & states for jobs and for population.  Banning smoking in public places is a good way to be able to remove an objection for relocating to the Missouri side of the region.

Kudos to these five mayors.  I have sent an email to several members of the Board of Aldermen and Mayor Slay’s staff asking them to pass a smoking ban in the City of St. Louis that would take affect upon approval of a similar measure in St. Louis County.  If St. Louis County did the same we might actually get somewhere in our fragmented region. I suggest you contact your elected official in the city/county where you live to try to get this done.