Hey Smokers, Kindly Get Out of My Face and Smoke Somewhere Else. Thank You.

April, 03, 2009, by Ben

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Yesterday, my colleague and friend, Acree, published a markedly incendiary column regarding the issue of smoking in restaurants and bars.  Her column, entitled “Smoky Bars Are NOT That Gross; You’re Just Really Whiny”, made the argument that “getting smoke all over you at a dive bar or a show venue is just part of the experience” and “the main reason you have the attitude of smoking as ‘disgusting’ is because you’re a product of years of anti-smoking marketing campaigns”.

Today, I would like to offer my gracious rebuttal:


NewRaleigh.com doesn’t have the server space for me to list all my reasons for this view, so I’ll simply lay out a few main ones.

Reason one:  A commenter on Acree’s column, Michael, hit the nail on the head when he remarked, “I think it’s the deadly chemicals in your lungs part, not the stinky smoke in your hair part, that most reasonable people are concerned about.”  Bingo, Michael.  The idea that in order to have a drink at a bar, I must subject myself to the inhalation of carcinogens is quite insane.  It’s precisely for this reason that for the past year or so I’ve simply stopped going to bars or restaurants where I’m forced to do this.  And to all the smoker-friendly bars, for what it’s worth, that’s one customer who isn’t coming through your doors.  I doubt I’m the only one.

Yes, yes, I can already hear you, smokers… “Ben, nobody’s FORCING you to go there [wheeze].  Nobody’s holding a gun to your head and saying you HAVE to go to a bar [phlegmy cough],” (Emphysema added).  To you I say two things: first, you stink.  Second, you’re absolutely right, no one’s forcing me to go to a smoke-filled bar.  The problem, however, is twofold.  The persons who work at these bars are equally subject to the poisons in the air.  Sure, no one is technically forcing them to work there, but for some, especially in this economy, restaurant work is all that’s available.  It is simply an unfair argument.  The same weak argument could be made about workers in unsafe factories or carcinogen-soaked farms.  No one is ever forced to take a job working in an unsafe environment, but I hear much fewer arguments like this when it comes to farmworkers whose babies are born with deformities due to poisonous pesticide exposure.  Second, I wholeheartedly disagree that my right to enjoy a beer with on a Friday night should be hindered by the risk of deadly disease.  Just as the claim can be made that smokers have the right to smoke, so made can be the claim that everyone else has the right not to smoke.  Thing is, when someone inside is smoking, the non-smokers have no choice but to smoke as well.

Reason two:  Acree claims that “getting smoke all over you at a dive bar or a show venue is just part of the experience, and smelling it in your hair the day after, while you walk weary-eyed into the workplace, is no worse than not being able to wash that entrance stamp off the back of your hand.”  And I agree that it is part of the experience.  A disgusting, frustrating, and off-putting part of the experience.  But in addition to being vomitous, that stale-nicotine smell clinging to your hair when you get home is actually also quite dangerous.  According to a January article in the New York Times, this so called third-hand smoke “includes heavy metals, carcinogens and even radioactive materials”.  Radioactive materials.  That, for those of you who don’t know, is what happens after an atomic bomb explodes.  Radioactive materials.  This means that even if I spend only a few minutes at a smoky bar, the danger to my health does not end when I walk out the door.  It follows me home.

Reason three: Really, it comes down to individual rights, to which I alluded in reason one.  My understanding is that in this country, our understanding of “freedom” is this: we are each entitled to the right to do whatever we choose until our actions infringe on other’s rights to do the same.  For this reason, we outlaw certain things such as murder or assault.  I do not have the right to kill another citizen because it ultimately will prevent them from enjoying their own rights.  Now I’m not quite saying that smoking in a bar is equal to murder (though the argument could plausibly be made).  I’m simply saying that a person’s right to smoke in public infringes on their neighbor’s right to not smoke.  This is where the line should be drawn.  Frankly, I would be more comfortable with a person injecting heroin or snorting cocaine while sitting at the bar stool next to me because in this case, I would have the opportunity to exercise my right to not ingest harmful chemicals.  I believe that I should have the same entitlement claimed by zealous smokers to enjoy an evening at a bar.  As it stands now, I don’t.

So, to the smokers… kindly get out of my face and smoke somewhere else.

And to my good friend Acree, you might want to rethink your argument, for if you continue to be a second-hand smoker, it may turn out that the only whining noises you hear will be coming from your tar-marinated lungs.

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  • Mickey Blue Eyes
    04/03 02:37 PM


  • Kurt
    04/03 02:42 PM

    Well stated.

  • jbee
    04/03 02:45 PM


  • why
    04/03 02:59 PM

    When can this discussion stop?  Seriously NR, start posting real news and not your contributors opinions.  This is a sad and silly debate.  Write your local representative, not your local blog. 

    That said, can I get some posts regarding what new things are happening in Raleigh?

  • RaleighRob
    04/03 03:06 PM

    ^Editorials on current events are found in all news publications. 

    Ben—great article.  Your points are clear and logical.

  • Gennie
    04/03 03:18 PM

    Awesome article, Ben. :-) My thoughts exactly.

  • why
    04/03 03:18 PM

    Rob, you’re very correct.  I’m all for editorials, but the post arguments are getting out of hand.  I was very happy to see the smoking poll post to move the discussion away from foundation and the busy bee with comments not about the article or establishment.  I’m really just hoping to see more editorials with comments disabled.  Ya dig?

  • trueRaleigh
    04/03 03:30 PM

    i need a cigarette…kindly get out of my face so i can smoke…and kindly stick with your nonsmoking bars. there are plenty places for all of us to do what thou wilt.

  • BA from the D
    04/03 03:49 PM

    I was the singer of a successful, up-and-coming band a decade or so ago, long before anyone was reasonably making these points, and I can tell you—there was more than one night when I simply could not perform the next day due to smoke inhalation. We played both arenas and clubs, and we eventually had to spread out the gigs so that I could perform. How fair is that on my ability and right to work, not to mention that conditions directly hazardous to my career have been inescapably placed in my workplace.

    The arguments for smoking in public places hold no water, and simply arguing that it’s “your right” is weak and full of shit—and those of you that use it, know it. Selfishness becomes the order of the day, and the majority of people will not allow it.

    Ben, you’re a good writer and a good soul. I hope to see more of this from you.

  • Betsy
    04/03 03:58 PM

    It’s a non-issue.  All the states are going in one direction, except maybe Alabama or something.  The phrase “wrong side of history” comes to mind.

  • Dan
    04/03 04:24 PM

    It boils down to one thing - IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT DON’T GO!

    No offense to non-smokers (I’m one of them) but it should be up to the business to allow smoking or not.  I’m tired of your pretentious rants - you aren’t the center of the universe.

  • raleighboi444
    04/03 04:37 PM

    As an ex-smoker I think you are all over reacting.  Yes, there is a choice of where you can go to enjoy a beer in a bar - some allow smoking, others do not. Pick one and enjoy it. Your demand to drink in a smoke free venue is being met by every new bar that is opening in the area.

    If the same arguments are leveled at the act of drinking alcohol, i.e. consuming dangerous chemicals, liver damage, impaired decision making, impaired driving skills, etc. then where does the ‘you are endangering me’ argument stop?  There will always be a group of people who will be against some action of another group.  Smoking is indeed bad for your health, so is drinking, flying (radiation), masturbation (blindness), and taking the Lord’s name in vain (eternal damnation)and yet people continue to do these things. 

    We can all choose the places we frequent and vote with our dollars.  Who knows? Maybe smoking venues will change to non smoking.  It is also possible that smoke-free places may build outdoor areas for the smokers to lure their dollars too.  The free market will be a more effective hammer than the endless discourse in the comments section of this website. 

    Have a great weekend everyone!

  • Ben
    04/03 04:43 PM

    raleighboi444… You’re right, drinking can become dangerous if an intoxicated person gets behind the wheel of a car.  That is precisely why we have laws that make it illegal to drive while drunk.  Let’s continue to outlaw actions that endanger others.

  • Old guy
    04/03 05:03 PM

    Since when is a private bar a public place?  I think the owner ought to have a say in whether there is smoking allowed or not.  Otherwise, the whiny people will have won.

  • Dan
    04/03 05:05 PM

    Apparently, New Raleigh has decided to go trolling. Alright! I can’t wait for the gay rights-abortion-blah-blah-small-labias-vs-clitoral-radius-debate-blah-blah-gun-ownership columns. I mean, geez, how exciting!

  • raleighboi444
    04/03 05:14 PM

    Yes, but doesn’t the law consider any amount of alcohol as an impairment to driving?  If so, then I demand that all bars stop serving alcohol to patrons who will be driving home.  I, on the otherhand, live downtown and walk to my favorite bars - so I should able to enjoy a pint without the crippling fear of someone running me over in the streets.  With that said, honestly, most of my friends are smokers, so if I want to spend time with them in a bar, then I guess I will be spending it in pubs and bars that allow smoking - until it is banned.  Of course once it is banned inside, all the outdoor dining will be taken over by the smokers, so the non-smokers are going to have another cause for martyrdom.  I mean they will have to stagger through all that smoke to get back to their cars.

    See you across a frosty mug!
    Have a great weekend!

  • David Z
    04/03 05:42 PM

    I just want to say this:

    1) The most powerful argument I ever heard against smoking cigarettes didn’t even deal with a smoking ban. It dealt with the conditions migrant farm workers are forced to deal with when cultivating the crop down East. Those who purchase cigarettes are supporting an industry that forces its laborers to work under conditions in which they are subject to ailments such as green tobacco sickness, and they’re paid very little.

    2)Acree’s article is foolish and does injustice to the views of those who oppose a smoking ban. But at the same time, Ben, your argument is riddled with hyperbole and extremist rhetoric that does a disservice to whatever potential merit it had. If you’ve ever been around anyone who’s on blow, you might reconsider your statement about preferring to site beside them at a bar rather than someone who’s smoking. Coked out folks can be a lot more dangerous than some second-hand smoke you might happen to inhale. And then you have to consider the danger in being around the kinds of sketchy people that are going to be hanging out in an environment where the use of hard drugs is condoned.

    Maybe you’ll be able to avoid the ingestion of harmful chemicals, but I don’t know that you’d be any better off, safety-wise.

    3)The point you bring up regarding individual rights is important. But just as smoking around a person who does not smoke infringes on their right to the latter, so does instituting a smoking ban infringe upon the right of a smoker to smoke. Your argument ignores this fact. Perhaps instead of banning smoking outright, restaurants and bars could reserve smoking to certain areas of the restaurant, so each individual can dine/drink/smoke as he pleases.

    4) This is North Carolina. Tobacco is a vegetable.

    Look, I’m not denying that smoking is bad, that it’s an awful and disgusting habit. Folks should definitely be able to go out to a bar and have a drink without being subject to the dangers of cigarette fumes. Ben, you know I love you; and maybe you non-smokers have gotten the short-end of the stick on this whole smoking in public deal, and there does need to be some regulation. But look here: there isn’t any reason why there cannot be compromise on this issue, like I stated above.

    And for the record, I was joking on #4.

    Sort of.

  • Ben
    04/03 05:50 PM

    DZ, you’re right on #4.

    I have been around folks on crack.  Not a good sight, but 1. it’s illegal, so I’m not terribly worried and 2. my point is that the actual act of ingesting a substance should be a matter of personal choice, as should the act of NOT ingesting a substance.  When you snort crack next to me, I don’t.  When you smoke a cigarette next to me, I do too.

    I haven’t proposed that smoking be completely banned.  I simply would like the right to sit at the same bar or restaurant as you while still being able to make my personal choices.

  • Scott
    04/03 06:07 PM

    reason #2 in the original post crippled an otherwise well-thought argument. if you are seriously worried about the level of radiation emanating from your hair after a few minutes in a smoky bar i can list 1,000 other things you encounter in every day life that your should immediately start freaking out about. get real.

  • truRaleigh
    04/03 06:07 PM

    Ben-did you see someone snorting crack? that must have looked weird. ; )

  • Ben
    04/03 06:09 PM

    truRaleigh… I’ve spent enough time watching adult videos to see crack snorting.  It was weird and unseemly.

  • tc
    04/03 06:22 PM

    “The idea that in order to have a drink at a bar, I must subject myself to the inhalation of carcinogens is quite insane. “

    I am making no argument here, just an observation of the irony inherent in this statement. 


  • David
    04/03 06:51 PM

    No being a drunk is a carcinogen.

  • Big Bear
    04/03 06:57 PM

    Oh, if only there were a non-smoking bar - or several. I’m sooo tired of not being able to go have a drink or go dancing or listen to bands with my friends because of all the jerks who have to exercise their “right” to pollute the air.

    Just don’t go? If you’re a waiter, bar tender, entertainer or a dishwasher, then you may not have a choice especially in this ecomony.

    I’m so sick of it, I’ve also stopped going to restaurants that have “smoking areas” because the filthy smoke travels over to the “non-smoking” area and ruins my dinner.

    Smoke is a byproduct of smoking a cigarette. Urine is the byproduct of drinking. I think all the drinkers should start urinating in the air. If spewing smoke in the air is acceptable, why not urine? For that matter, I like to eat lots of dessert. Why should I dispense the byproduct of my dessert in the toilet?

    You want to smoke and destroy your health, fine. Do it at home so the rest of us can enjoy our right to clean air.

  • Old guy
    04/03 09:25 PM

    Don’t you have clean air at home, Big Bear? 

    I’m just curious why all bars haven’t become non-smoking of their own volition if there is such a huge demand for it.

    I’ll be fine either way, but it just seems odd that the owners of businesses can’t allow a legal product to be used inside their premises.  No one forces people to patronize their bars and as best I remember, you can’t force anyone to work for you,  either.

  • WiseOne
    04/04 11:27 AM

    Well, we can say the same things about car exhaust. I don’t want to breathe it either…but I won’t hold my breath until the mass transit arrives.

  • pickle
    04/04 01:38 PM

    “Oh, if only there were a non-smoking bar - or several”

    Been downtown lately?  There are several.

  • Old guy
    04/04 03:50 PM

    Well, pickle, then all the complaining people will now have places to hang out.  It seems as if the problem is solved without having to enact any new laws.

  • Tim
    04/04 04:34 PM

    Where do you catch a decent show downtown without the cigarette smoke? Even if there were options, cigarettes should not determine what bands I see and that is what lies at the heart of my support for the ban (prior to its watered-down state). Well, that and asthma.

  • JeffS
    04/04 06:06 PM

    Let’s ban McDonalds. The site of fat people makes me nauseous. While we’re at it, let’s ban cars because they’re polluting my environment.

  • bart
    04/05 05:37 PM

    I didn’t bother reading this article, or the comments all the way through, but I feel anything I’m about to say can be said over and over. Let the businesses decide. Let the businesses decide. Let the businesses decide.Let the businesses decide. If there is a a strong enough anti-smoking sentiment, businesses that DECIDE to be non-smoking will have an automatic clientele. There are several places to go enjoy a drink or some food where the OWNER has DECIDED not to allow smoking. Go to Foundation, 518, Boylan Brew Pub. Go there and don’t smoke, and I won’t smoke when I’m there either. If I want to smoke at will without going outside, I’ll go to the Landmark or the Borough and that is MY DECISION and THE OWNER’S DECISION. You should leave legislation out of the equation and support thoe businesses who have made the right DECISION for YOU.

  • Andy S.
    04/06 11:35 AM

    I come to newraleigh.com to read news about Raleigh.

    I can go anywhere to listen to two idiots have the “Smoking is a Right / Smoking Should Be Banned Everywhere” argument.

    Can we get back on topic now, please?

  • TheCatalyst
    04/06 11:37 AM

    THANK YOU BART!!!!!!!!!

  • JMo
    04/06 08:59 PM

    I thought this article was a bit cheesy up until the third point…

    “I’m simply saying that a person’s right to smoke in public infringes on their neighbor’s right to not smoke.”

    That’s a great point. Banning smoking indoors would infringe on a smoker’s right to smoke - no it wouldn’t. They can go outside (just like a nonsmoker can choose NOT to go, right?).

    It is my right to stand naked in front of my window for the school next door to see, right? Nope - it’s illegal - because it affects other people. Same with smoking - do it wherever you please, as long as it doesn’t affect others in potentially dangerous ways.

    Whine, whine, bloody whine… wonder if anybody will read this.

  • JeffS
    04/06 10:27 PM

    Say I wanted to convert my restaurant to smokers only. Ask yourself why you have a problem with it.

    It’s because this is NOT an issue about second hand smoke and smelly clothes. It’s about the moral superiority some non-smokers feel. It’s the same reason cigarettes are taxed at an abnormally high rate. We’re always quick to tax or restrict as long as it’s on the other guy.

    I’m not a smoker, but I just might participate in the next activity you decide to eliminate.

  • pablo
    04/10 11:56 AM

    Bart, reality just doesn’t fit your scenario of “just choose which type of bar you want to go to”. Say you’re out with several friends; some don’t mind or are not as affected by 2nd hand smoke as others. They (and myself) want the option to go to the Landmark, or the Borough, or Slims, or the Jackpot, or PR, or Moonlight, or Hibernian, or Tir Na Nog, or the countless other bars that allow smoking because the owners are afraid if they ban smoking they might lose some business to other bars who allow it. INEVITABLY, people who are sensitive to 2nd hand smoke end up in smoke filled bars because they want to spend time with their friends. Also, Ask the bar owners. Most would prefer a straight up ban on smoking. We have been bullied by the smokers for to long and your days of being able to pollute the air we breathe in places open to the public are coming to an end. It’s just a matter of time, but the good news for you is that you will still be able to suck in as many cigarettes as you like in your own space. It’s that simple.

  • JeffS
    04/10 12:59 PM

    So we need a law to protect the week-willed of the world from peer pressure?


  • JeffS
    04/10 01:04 PM

    “your days of being able to pollute the air we breathe in places open to the public are coming to an end”
    Think about this statement the next time you crank your car up and pollute the air that I breathe. - and no, I don’t drive a car (by choice). The difference is you can avoid the smoky bar.

  • pablo
    04/10 01:47 PM

    I think you missed my point. Most of us do not want avoid the bars that allow smoke BECAUSE we want to enjoy the amenities of the bar (music, food, etc.) AND our friends companionship. We don’t won’t to be subject to your smoke and since it is open to the public, we have that right. So, yes. There should be a law to stop you from harming me. Sort of like it’s against the law for me to punch you in nose in the same bar.

    Re Cars - I agree, eventually we will go electric or some other form that does not spew out carbon monoxide, but first we are going to settle the smoking in public issue.

  • Paul
    04/15 05:55 PM

    Smoking is disgusting unless you love smelling like a sewer. How ANYONE can make even a semi-intelligent argument in favor of smoking is beyond me.

  • Bart
    04/16 04:59 PM

    pablo, I think you are missing my point. My argument is against the state mandating a smoking ban. I think it’s more effective for the non-smoking population to show other business owners that they would rather go to a place that doesn’t allow smoking. You do that by helping make those businesses successful that provide smoke free environments. The idea is for there to be more choices for you. That idea shouldn’t preclude the idea that those who want to enjoy tobacco and alcohol at the same time should be able to.


    p.s. The cool stuff will always be happening amidst cigarette smoke because, as decades of evidence shows…all the cool kids smoke. jk

    Hey Paul,
    If you can’t distinguish between sewer smell and cigarette smell, you have no business commenting on anything involving the olfactory sense. I was in San Francisco a few years ago, and all the cool old places that used to smell like smoke and piss, just smell like piss now. Not sure that’s an improvement.

  • Bart
    04/16 05:17 PM

    Oh yeah, by the way, andy s., you actually can go many places on the internet that aren’t about the s vs. n-s issue. Your comment was like the fifteenth one or so. There may be something deeply psychologically wrong with you if you cant’t stop reading something you don’t want to read. I think you shouldn’t torture yourself and then play the victim…hmmm that sounds like advice I could give to a lot folks…

  • pablo
    04/16 06:56 PM

    Bart, I appreciate your civil tone. It’s refreshing in this debate. I only wratchet it up when the others do. Sometimes the free market having a self regulating mechanisms that works. Other times it never happens or takes to long, in which case, the government needs to step in. Segregation was a good example of this. The rights of business owners who were open to the public who discriminated based on race needed to be forced by government action to cease the activity. Most of the owners weren’t racist, their argument was that if they allowed colored customers they would lose their white customers. Sound familiar? Smoking in a place open to the public is a health issue. You are affecting somebody’s elses health and I have right go into places open to the public. Period.

  • JeffS
    04/16 08:01 PM

    Next you’ll be arguing that you have the “RIGHT” to go to a concert and stand by the speaker without risking hearing damage - or the “RIGHT” to go to the beach without risking skin cancer.

    Personally, I feel that i should have the “RIGHT” to walk outside without breathing car exhaust that is polluting the atmosphere.

    My question is why this fight? If you were worried about your health there are more important fights.

  • dtra
    04/16 11:42 PM

    This arguement is useless.  Let the business owners decide.  I thought NR was going to put together a list of non-smoking bars downtown.  and how about a poll for all servers and bartenders about their smoking habits?  I know a ton of servers that work at non-smoking bars that can’t wait to get outside for a smoke break…  Plenty of bars to work at that are non-smoking. 

    Maybe the Downtown Alliance can hire another consultant to conduct a thorough survey and figure out what we should do.

  • pablo
    04/17 12:58 PM

    You do have the right to go to a concert or beach and not be damaged (wear ear plugs, apply sunscreen). The difference in a bar/restaurant is it’s about breathing. It’s not feasible to wear a gas mask. What is feasible is for you go to your car, roll up the windows and smoke as many as you like.

  • JeffS
    04/17 01:14 PM

    I notice you conveniently ignored the pollution your car is contributing to MY air - and that’s something that can’t be avoided by simply going to a non-smoking restaurant.

  • pablo
    04/17 01:18 PM

    Oops, sorry about that. I agree that carbon monoxide from cars is a problem. We will fix that problem when we have the political capital. We’re almost there for smoking in public places. If not this year, next.

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