Tuesday, May 24, 2005


the indianapolis smoking ban has passed:

Put it out: Starting March 1, 2006, smoking would be banned in workplaces, Laundromats, lobbies, restrooms and other public areas. Restaurants and bars are covered by the ban unless they prohibit customers younger than 18, in which case they are exempted.

Go ahead, light up: Excused from the ban: bowling alleys, private clubs, cigar bars, retail tobacco stores, designated hotel smoking rooms, and family-owned businesses in which all employees are related and the business is closed to the public.

the obvious argument about smoking bans is that they aren't--or shouldn't be--truly necessary. if the general public is really that upset about public smoking, then those people will (or logically should) naturally try to frequent places that are non-smoking. we have a few non-smoking bars, and it already seems like most of the best restaurants (the smaller, neighborhood-type ethnic restaurants, etc) are already non-smoking. that way the nonsmokers have places they can go to hang out and avoid smokers; the smokers have places they can go to smoke; everyone in theory should be happy. but of course, the nonsmoking lobby doesn't seem to want people to be allowed to smoke anywhere. that "i should be able to go anywhere i want and not deal with any smokers" attitude that a lot of them seem to have really bugs me.

but a ban in restaurants doesn't bother me too much. as i said, most of the best restaurants are already non-smoking, so i'm not sure how much i'd really notice the difference.

but banning smoking in bars doesn't make any sense to me. drinking makes you smoke! smoking and drinking go hand in hand; if you're a smoker, it's virtually impossible to drink any significant amount of alcohol without smoking. you just can't do it. so on that level at least, passing a smoking ban in bars makes about as much sense as passing a law barring drunken people from fucking each other. it's not like bars are otherwise clean and wholesome: everyone knows that they are essentially dirty, sinful places, so the argument that bar patrons require clean air rings false. (and laws that ban smoking outdoors strike me as ludicrous... if people can't smoke outside, where there is a naturally-occurring air current known as "wind" to keep smoke out of people's faces, then where the hell can people smoke?)

this law exempts normal bars that don't allow patrons under the age of 18. so "true" bars can keep on smokin', and restaurant bars etc go smoke-free. on one level it sounds like the perfect compromise: the smokers can still smoke in their bars, and the nonsmokers have hundreds of restaurant bars where they can indulge their alcholism in a smoke-free environment. but a lot of restaurant owners are pissed over this, convinced they will lose business (and i have yet to see any actual evidence that they won't... anecdotal tales about people standing outside bars in california are insufficient).

another complaint i've heard relates to underage musicians. frankly, there are very few all-age performance venues for musicians in indy. there are a few all-ages places, but generally, if you want to perform in front of an audience in indy, you probably need to play in a bar. currently, the bars can make exceptions for underage performers: they shouldn't hang out in the bar, but they can wait outside and come in when it's time to set up and play. under the new law, bars that permit smoking cannot allow people under 18 to enter at all, no exceptions. so effectively musicians under 18 years old will not be able to perform in bars that allow smoking.

this is definitely a valid criticism. having a set-in-stone no-under-18 rule does seem a little excessive, for that and other reasons. but let's be honest: this is really a problem with the music scene (and the city's support for the music scene), not with the smoking ban per se. if we had a bunch of decent all-ages venues available, it wouldn't really matter. the new law will tangibly hurt underage performers, but those performers still lack a place to play where kids their own age can attend. and honestly, now many musicians that young are really worth hearing?

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