What Do You Think of the New Antismoking Laws?

The Beat on the Street

Volume CIII, No. 6June, 2003

“The Beat on the Street” is a new feature in Allegro. We’ll e-mail a question and you’ll tell us what you think. To participate in “The Beat on the Street,” we need your current e-mail address! Check with the Membership Department at ext. 128 to make sure we have yours.

This month’s question is the following:

“Smoking in bars and restaurants was outlawed in New York City on March 30, and Governor Pataki has signed an even stricter state law, which will extend to workplaces, to begin around August 1. As a musician, what do you think of the new antismoking laws?”

Out of 143 replies we received by press time, 106 were in favor of the new laws and 37 were opposed. Here is a sampling:

As a flutist with asthma I am thrilled about the new antismoking law in New York. I’ve been waiting for New York to catch up with California on this issue. I love to play pool and dance salsa and felt like I couldn’t do either if I had any important concerts coming up because spending any time in a smoke filled room would aggravate my asthma. I also hate the smell, and get headaches from it.

–Karen Bogardus

Despite the fact that I am a nonsmoker, I think this is a terrible law. This law goes too far in restricting personal freedom. I believe people should be allowed to smoke in bars. Nonsmoking bars exist for nonsmokers. As a musician, I do not have to accept jobs in smoky bars if don’t want to. Are there laws that say stage volume can’t be above a certain limit because it would hurt my hearing? Are there laws that say the sun can’t be out because I may get sunburned? Why must the government tell us exactly what we can and cannot do, and where?

–Rob Kahn

As someone who could not take any gigs in bars or clubs where smoking was permitted due to severe allergies, I love the new laws. Taking a gig and weighing whether work was more important than going home incredibly sick or not was not a choice I liked making.

–Heather Edwards

I am completely in favor of it. The medical evidence on the damage from secondary smoke is, at this point in time, overwhelming, and restaurant personnel and musicians are at the greatest risk because they get much more exposure to the toxins on a nightly basis than the customer who is only there for a single meal. There are times when the personal freedoms of the few must be sacrificed for the greater good of the whole – and this is one of those times.

–Charlie Mead

I am not in favor of a lot of rules so I would prefer that this rule not be added to the list. As a nonsmoker I like the idea of not smelling like smoke when I emerge from a club. But I don’t care enough to legislate against it. Too many rules.

–Michele Temple

I understand that for nonsmokers this will be welcome. Unfortunately, I am a smoker, and I find myself somewhat resentful that no arrangements are ever made for us. I don’t mind not smoking in specified locations, but I wonder why there are never any locations specified for us smokers to enjoy our chosen vice. I feel that everybody has rights, and ours are being ignored and we are hugely penalized because it seems a righteous cause. Gone are the days of tolerance and good manners. Not only do we have to pay an enormous premium to pay for the useless antismoking campaign, there seems no end to the efforts of the general public to curtail our freedom. Prohibition is not dead after all.

–May Sofge

Tough antismoking laws are good. Maybe people will buy more drinks and the band will make more dough!

–Larry Cohen

As a nonsmoking musician who used to play in small, smoky clubs, I used to find that all the secondhand smoke would affect my voice in a bad way and make me want to throw my clothes and my guitar and amp into the washing machine the next day. I applaud the new antismoking laws. If you want to smoke, that’s fine by me – just don’t even think of exhaling near me.

–Dan Goldberg

Concerning the ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, I think this is just another way for the dictators to dictate and the simple citizens to obey. I personally thought the separation of smoking and nonsmoking sections in restaurants was quite fine. As for bars, be serious. Do they sincerely expect all those diehard smokers will go to bars when every time they have a nicotine craving, they have to step outside? I pity the person who is in charge of sidewalk maintenance! As far as banning smoking in the workplace, this really does not affect me, being a theatre musician. Smoking lounges are few and far between. I’m not saying I’m pro-smoking, just anti-dictatorship. Next stop & New Jersey?

–Angela Jamieson

I came here two years ago from L.A. where there is already a no smoking law. I think it’s great. I always hated coming home after a gig and smelling like an ashtray.

–Carl Burnett

I don’t think the smoking ban will have any real negative repercussions as far as the amount of work musicians will have in New York. Bar culture being what it is, I think bargoers will continue going out, despite what the papers say. And if they keep going, there will continue to be an audience for shows.

As far as the positive impact: musicians will able to breathe better at work, and their drycleaning bills will go down. Sounds good to me.

–Dan Martin

As a musician and a citizen, I don’t like it. Bear in mind, I don’t smoke. I think it’s too much government in your face. Are we grownups or kids?

–Ed Caccavale

I say, “Hallelujah!” to the new antismoking law. I wish it had gone into place 10 years ago. Now, not only can I enjoy myself when I’m working in a club, but I can go out and enjoy live music on a more regular basis as well. It’s like a whole new New York music scene to me.

–Malcolm Gold

I think the new laws are fantastic! One of the things I’ve always hated about playing in clubs is the smoke, so anything that keeps it away from me (and my instrument) is welcome. People should be restricted to smoking in their own homes – preferably with the windows closed!

–Suzanne Mueller

Personally, I don’t like smoking. I stopped in 1968. I also don’t like secondhand smoke. Playing in night clubs has always been difficult because of the smoke. However, people come to clubs to hear music, drink, meet people and, while doing all that, they smoke. I think that the smoking ban is going to add another nail in the coffin of live music. And when you think about it, up until about 100 years ago, and going back to cavemen times, all music was two things: live and acoustic. It’s amazing to me that in the short space of a couple of generations, all that has been almost wiped out. So, I guess you could say that I’m opposed to the smoking ban.

–David Bennett Cohen

Finally! I live in Willamsburg, and many times would not go out because of smoke. I will literally go out more now – and breathe freely – and not smell like a Marlboro when I get home.

–Richard A. Tozzoli

As someone who frequently performs in bars around the city, I applaud the new law. In the short time that it’s been in effect, I have enjoyed the clear air the law provides. I have been waking with more energy. I’ve heard owners in the venues complaining that they will lose business, but I don’t believe their logic. Music venues have an added edge with their client base since people come first to listen, and secondly to smoke, drink, or eat.

Just last night, I sat on a break next to the door of the club. I noticed that I could smell the smokers from outside. I’ve never noticed the smell of smoke in these venues before because I’ve been completely desensitized to any smell by the volume of cigarette smoke in the air. It’s nice to smell again.

–David Gibson

I think the law is a huge waste of time and energy. I think Mayor Bloomberg is nuts to do it as it will require cops to waste a bunch of time and hours busting regular folks enjoying a smoke in a bar. In the same breath (no pun intended), he is crying to Washington regarding the little money allotted to the city for terrorism protection. Personally I like to have a smoke in a bar after a gig but I’m not a bargoer in a social sense.

–Steve Mostyn

The new antismoking legislation is a long awaited relief from having to spend many a break outside, in often cold or inclement weather, just to momentarily escape the carcinogens contained in second-hand smoke. I am overjoyed that performing in a smoke-filled venue will no longer be the price one has to pay to make a living as a musician in New York. My unending thanks go to both the New York City and the New York State legislators for having both the courage and the compassion to protect workers’ rights regarding this very important health issue!

–Joe Vincent Tranchina

As a singer and nonsmoker I have to say that I experience it as a relief to be able to breathe when I’m performing. I had a gig on April 1 and it felt a bit weird to be in a club without smoke around, but I enjoyed the fact that my eyes weren’t burning, and my clothes weren’t reeking afterwards. And the nonsmoking law didn’t keep people from coming out to the show.

–Elisabeth Lohninger

I’m a nonsmoker. My wife is a reformed nonsmoker. We don’t allow smoking in our home. When I come home from a bar gig smelling of smoke, my wife makes me “strip and shower” before coming to bed. That said – what’s left for those who do smoke? I think it will hurt bar business and therefore hurt musicians who play in bars, so I’m against the ban.

–Don Dailey

From the self-righteous point of view of a person who, five years ago, left a two pack a day habit that lasted 13 years, I feel that any measure taken to discourage a terribly destructive habit such as smoking is a good one. Had I been a teenager in today’s antismoking climate, I’m sure that even if I could afford a pack of cigarettes per day I would think twice about doing something so actively discouraged by the world around me. Smoking is a vice that deserves to be marginalized and stigmatized in our time so that it does not get passed on to future generations.

–Maxim Moston

I think banning smoking will be a boon for live music. I personally know at least 20 people – who love hearing live music – who only come to see my gigs when I am playing in a nonsmoking venue. These are regular working people who spend money to hear music but who cannot stand to be in a smoky environment. I received a slew of emails from friends saying, “Let me know when you’re playing after April 1. Then I’ll come out.”

The banning of smoking will not hurt businesses. Whenever I play in L.A., I still see packed houses, and the folks simply wait between sets to go out and smoke. It is no different than not being able to smoke in a restaurant, concert hall or Broadway theatre.

–Damien Bassman

The short term effect will hurt musicians. Smokers will stay away from bars and clubs. Musicians who play in clubs will see smaller audiences. Eventually, people will come back, especially if bars find a way to create “smoking lounges” within their establishments. If the club owners are smart, they will use live entertainment to lure their patrons back, smoking or not.

–Rob Susman

Antismoking laws have long been overdue. As a working jazz musician in clubs and restaurants for the past 45 years, this has long been a health hazard that contributed to the death of many of my musician friends. The tobacco companies and “Hollow-weird Movies” had many of us deluded into believing that smoking was a necessary appendage to one’s “hip” persona. Viva No Smoking Laws!

–Larry Ridley

I love the antismoking laws: I’ll get to live longer. There may be an adverse effect on the local music business at first, but I believe people will adjust quickly and come back to the scene. Given the choice between staying home alone to smoke, or hang out, I think people will choose to hang out!

–Frédéric Las Fargeas

I will miss the atmosphere that smoking creates in clubs and bars. Those places seemed like the last refuge for smokers. I don’t go to clubs to feel like I’m following rules, either. Part of the fun of a gig at a club is that everyone feels free to do what they want, to a certain point. Banning smoking has made those club gigs feel a bit like a sixth grade dance with the principal in the corner.

–Joe Drew

I am a nonsmoker, so I am thrilled about the smoking ban. I am aware that it might have repercussions on some businesses like bars and others, but I am sure, as always, people will get used to the new rules. Overall, I really hope that a lot more people will feel compelled to quit.

–Alejandra Mahave

Few people hate cigarette smoke as much as I do. Banning smoking in workplaces where other people have no choice but to be there and breathe secondhand smoke makes good sense. Banning smoking in bars and nightclubs is completely ridiculous. If patrons don’t like the smoke, they don’t have to stay! There is no shortage of bars.

–Seth Farber

I am so excited to go back and play in these clubs and go and listen to music and be able to breathe freely after years of being allergic to smoke.

–Mary Ann Mcsweeney

The draconian nature of the laws – even outlawing separate sections for smokers in which club employees would not have to go – is bad. It will be a disaster for a club scene already hurt by economic recession and two hostile mayoral administrations. As far as enforcement, the city law imposes enormous fines on bars and restaurants, and the state law mandates that a club be closed after two violations. One gets the strong impression that this law has little to do with protecting the health of New Yorkers and much to do with creating a bonanza in fines and bribes for city officials and corrupt cops. The losers will be the city club scene, the musicians who work it, and the music itself.

–Marc Ribot

I think the law is great. I really cannot give my best performance in a smoke-filled environment. Plus, for years I’ve been very tired of coming home with my entire being stinking of cigarette smoke. Cigarette smoke is a carcinogen. Finally, I would classify cigarettes as “weapons of mass destruction.”

–Ben Dixon

Bravo! For the health of all musicians and their audiences, this is a blessing! I will not work anywhere in the world if the venue is not completely smoke-free.

–David “Fathead” Newman