Bars were made for cigarette smokers
I smoked my first cigarette when I was 12 years old.
Yeah. I know. But it is what it is, and there you are.
Last October, the day before I began my new job, I quit. Actually, my wife and I quit together. I was 48 years old at the time. And you know damned well I’m not giving up my wife’s age. The fact that I gave up smoking should be proof enough that I enjoy life.
Anyway, now I’m reading about this big push to abolish smoking in Michigan’s public places, which would include public places like bars and restaurants. As more and more states across the country are taking up anti-smoking legislation, some legislators in Michigan are apparently starting to feel like Michigan is getting left behind once again if we don’t follow along.
I’m glad I quit smoking, and yeah, I do feel better, but I couldn’t disagree more with those who think it makes sense to legislate the end of smoking in bars. That’s the craziest shit I ever heard. Far as I’m concerned, the bar is the one place where a smoker shouldn’t have any worries whatsoever about firing up.
For those of you who may be surprised at my point of view given the fact that I recently ‘chose life’ and put down the cancer sticks, I would point out that it was my decision to put them down. I wasn’t forced to comply by my beloved government. As a grown-up who is well aware of the consequences of smoking, and who is also well aware of how eggregiously the American public has been lied to by Big Tobacco, I made a grown-up decision to quit. On my own. Same thing with my wife.
This doesn’t mean I think it’s OK to now close the door on everyone else now that I’m home free. While I do agree it makes sense not to allow smoking in certain workplace environments where non-smokers would be forced to inhale the clouds, I don’t count bars among those work environments because I figure if you’re going to a bar then, as an adult, you ought to know what goes on in bars. If you don’t like smoke-filled bars (which happen to be the kind of bars I’ve performed in for most of my professional musician life) then go on a nature hike or something. Hug a tree.
Sorry. That was uncalled for. But here’s all I’m saying; don’t expect government to be able to save you from everything in life, and don’t ask government to disrupt everyone else’s quality of life – no matter how repulsive that quality of life may be to you – just so you can impose your version of a ‘new and improved’ lifestyle on your unsuspecting fellow citizens who may not be quite ready to have you improve them just yet. Simply understand that bars aren’t for you and move on to someplace where you belong. Keep in mind that there is nothing wrong, in my humble opinion, with a bar owner who decides he doesn’t want cigarette smoking going on in his establishment if that’s what he figures his customers want. Or if it’s what he wants. Fine. But to give the Michigan Legislature the power to to start a flash fire and eradicate a whole lifestyle and culture using the excuse that they care about our health is plain and simple bullshit.
And yes, bar life really is a separate culture and lifestyle. Trust me. Having played music in just about every size and style of bar you can imagine over the course of 20 years – from upscale suburban polish and gloss to ghetto firetrap – I’ve got a pretty good idea of what bars are about. Granted, I haven’t hung out in too many country and western bars, but my guess is the only real difference is what’s on stage and the the jukebox menu. Outside of that, what you have are regular folk who only want to take a deep, calm breath at the end of a crazy day, wrap their fingers around something cold and wet to drink, light one up, and put it all behind them. A beer and a cigarette in a low-lit bar are good for that. A beer, a cigarette, and some newfound companionship interested in small talk about nothing-in-particular to pass the time is an even better remedy.
Standing outside the front door huddled around the complementary Ashtray for Outcasts just ain’t the same.
Sure, smoking can kill you. But it’s also legal. Which means you still ought to have a choice with at least a few things you do with your life. And yes, second-hand smoke is not to be taken lightly, which is why I’m not advocating that smoking be allowed in nurseries or on airplanes. But when you start talking about banning smoking in bars, or about not hiring people who smoke even though they don’t smoke on the job, then that’s when this whole discussion begins to enter the Theatre of the Absurd.