Why Irish Eyes Aren't Smiling

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A grim-faced Ronan Lawless appeared on the Galway courthouse steps to announce the indefinite closure of his Fibber Magees pub

No, that's not the opening to some just-discovered short story that got cut from Dubliners (indeed, the latest James Joyce artifact is a wee bit saucier than that). It's from a news account detailing how the Galway pub that was at the heart of resistance to Ireland's smoking ban has shut down.

Read the whole thing here, put on your best Barry Fitzgerald, rifle through Ulysses (not such a bad book after all), drink a pint, don't have a smoke, and repeat. Indefinitely.

[Tip o' the hat to reader Jarod; may the road rise up to meet you…mumble, mumble]

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  1. I suffered from mild seizures as a child (after a monstrously high fever in infancy), but I am perfectly fine now except for one thing–to this day I cannot handle strobe lights or any other fast-flashing light shows. I even have problems in dark places where large numbers of people are using flash photography. This means, of course, that I cannot enter certain nightclubs, planetarium shows, or even some amusement park rides, lest I risk dizziness at best or, at worst, a loss of consciousness which could make me fall down, bonk my head on something hard, and die.

    Which is not fair, but I figure it would be far more unfair for me to walk up to a room where a hundred people are enjoying a light show and tell them, “I can’t enjoy this, so you can’t either.” I am far from alone in this problem–there are so many people who can’t handle strobes that places which DO feature them are usually required to post warning signs outside the entrance.

    So, to those of you who say smoking should be banned because some people either dislike it or (in the case of asthmatics) can’t handle it, do you think strobe lights and flash photography should also be banned in public? Bear in mind that the danger strobe lights pose to people like me is far greater than the annoyance smoke poses to people like you.

  2. Jennifer, that sucks.

    I like not coming home smoke-stinky; OTOH, before the CA smoking ban, I found that it cost no money and very little effort to get the odor out of my clothes. Just hang them up outside or in an open window for a few hours — no washing, dry-cleaning, or Febreze (cough!) necessary.

  3. “A smoking ban is scheduled to go into effect in Ireland soon. The transition is expected to go smoothly as the Irish are well-known for their even temperament and respect for authority…”

  4. cwk. wrote:

    “I understand we can’t go riding our horses all over the streets, shooting our guns off in the air and throwing empty whiskey bottles at the ladies out in front of the cathouse. . .”

    Why the hell not?

    Oh, I’m not serious of course. But… still… For just a day, maybe?

    Perhaps one “Wild West” day a year for the entire United States would put things into perspective. I’d think legislators would be less likely to pass assinine restrictions on personal behavior (or what people allow to take place on their own damned property) if they had by way of comparison a day of pistol duels in the streets, busty prostitutes leaning out of second floor windows and whiskey soaked brawlers crashing through store fronts.

    Wait… what’s the status on carrying firearms at Mardi Gras?

  5. L. Simpson
    I agree. Heck, I’m a smoker and I prefer non-smoking bars, but I’d still like a choice. Fortunately, I live in SoCal so I can go to a bar with a patio and not freeze my ass off. If I still lived in Boston or NYC, I’d be far more upset, especially in the winter.

  6. One complicating factor is the artificial limit placed by licensing laws on the number of pubs permitted in Ireland. As a result, pub licences are traded at prices in the millions, effectively preventing the average entrepreneur from opening an alternative smoke-free pub.

    Another thing preventing existing licence holders from opening such pubs is the folk myth that non-smokers don’t drink and/or spend as much in pubs. The reality, of course, is that non-smokers don’t like to drink in smokey pubs. We’ll see, eventually, that any lost smoking customers will be replaced by non-smokers.

    In any case, the ban has to do with health and safety laws applying to pub employees. It’s hard to argue that someone should have to breathe smoke to do a job for which smoke is not an intrinsic element or necessary side effect (as, for example, coal dust is to mining). You’re not allowed to piss or shit on the floors of pubs for similar reasons.

  7. It’s hard to argue that someone should have to breathe smoke to do a job for which smoke is not an intrinsic element or necessary side effect

    Here we go again…. Nobody is forcing anyone to work in a smoky environment. If you don’t like it, GET A DIFFERENT LINE OF WORK.

  8. Jon-
    As per my earlier example, your argument could just as easily be used to argue that clubs should not be allowed to use strobe lights, since folks like me can’t work there.

    Seriously, I doubt any of you vehement anti-smokers would advocate a ban on flash lighting, but why do you draw the distinction? Clearly it can’t be for health reasons; I think it’s more a sneaky form of schadenfreude. For Chrissakes, just come right out and admit that you enjoy imposing your will on others, already!

  9. Patrick,
    Do you think people’s choice of employment should be limited by non-essential hazards?

    Jennifer,
    Smoke isn’t harmful only to some tiny subset of people who frequent pubs but don’t like smoke; it’s harmful to everyone. Ergo, in the absence of laws, anyone who wants to work in the pub trade has to breathe smoke, even though smoke has no essential function in the pub business.

  10. My 2 cents:

    I do not like going to smoke filled bars. I do not like smelling like an ashtray. OTOH, one of my favorite eateries is just such a dive and I still go. Would I like it if they became non-smoking? Sure! Would I want some government intervention? Not on your life! When I want some of their awesome prime rib on a Friday night, I just suck it up (no pun intended) and I go. I throw back a couple, I eat plenty and God Bless America!

    There are times when I thought emotionally, “Dang it. Why can’t I just eat here without smelling someone’s cigar?” The key there is that emotionally, it would make me feel better and I could probably even come up with some logical sounding justifications in the name of health, safety, etc. Emotions should have nothing to do with it. It is a slippery slope when we do not consider the personal rights of the business owners. If it is my right to be able to eat in a smoke-free environment, who is the poor sucker to was born with the duty to provide me with it? Gov’t intervention just sucks. Long Live Libertarianism.

    -Seeker

  11. Oh please … if you actually go to Ireland, anywhere, you’ll find the pubs full, the beer flowing, and virtually everyone complying with the ban. In Dublin, the pubs are so crowded it can be difficult to squeeze through the door.

    This guy is out of business because he chose to incur large fines fighting something that most people in Ireland want. There are plenty of other pubs in Galway.

  12. As my mom used to say, “If the government told you to go jump in the lake, would you do it?”

  13. Way to go dk. You just summed up the entire nanny-state argument. “Almost all of us don’t like smoking, so you shouldn’t either.” Obviously, some people did like smoking in pubs.

  14. This guy is out of business because he chose to incur large fines fighting something that most people in Ireland want.

    God forbid someone, somewhere goes against the wishes of the majority. We must stamp out that sort of thinking.

    Seriously, it’s amazing how the concerns of individuals go out the window when the topic is smoking.

  15. Like most here, I’m inclined to let a proprietor determine his own bar’s smoking policies. But can anyone explain to me how, given the non-smoking preference of at least some drinkers, and given the unimpeachable infallability of the free market, I never ever saw even one non-smoking sign in any bar anywhere before these laws were passed?

  16. Glad to say that the Irish here in St. Paul can still smoke in our bars.

    Mayor Kelly just stomped out an attempt by the city council to ban smoking. Cheers!

  17. C- I call BS! There are plenty of bars that don’t let people smoke in them. Ex: Blue Martini in Minneapolis- It’s a very swanky joint with uber-hot women and everyone is sporting bling.

  18. well, I don’t go anyplace swanky, and I don’t even know if I like the idea of “uber hot.” Sarcastic absolutism aside, the market certainly seems to have been underestimating the demand for smokeless bars, if the healthy bar receipts from LA and Ireland are believed.

  19. c:

    Bar owners smoke.

    The unimpeachability of the market is not that everyone gets exactly what they want at all times, it is that they can exert influence among the available options.

  20. As a half-paddy meself I can say with confidence that this outright ban is a recipe for disaster. You have countless hordes of Irishmen getting drunker and drunker on any given night, and you don’t let them smoke?? There’s going to be blood in the streets, m’lad.

  21. It’s not about whether bar owners smoke, and it’s not about anyone (smokers or non) getting what they want all the time. If the market were to have solved this problem itself, you’d expect some proprietors to have recognized that there were people sitting at home rather than coming out. These guys would have voluntarily hung up “No Smoking” signs to capitalize on the fact. Bar patrons would then have a choice whether to visit a smoking place or a non-smoking place.

    So, barring a drive to Minneapolis, where do I find these places?

  22. C- Again, I have to call BS!!!

    Editorial Roundup
    Non-Smoking Bars
    By Citysearch Editors, Seattle
    Breathe easier at some of the city’s best non-smoking bars.
    Smoke-Free Favorites
    Virginia Inn
    1937 1ST Ave, Seattle, WA
    Tourists take a break from the market and residents have a drink after work in this French-feeling tavern.

    Elysian TangleTown
    2106 55th St N, Seattle, WA
    This pub serves up homemade brews and stellar food with an emphasis on family.

    74th Street Ale House
    7401 Greenwood Ave N, Seattle, WA
    With an amicable crowd and a fine beer selection, it’s easy to feel like a regular at this boisterous tavern.

    Latona Pub
    6423 Latona Ave NE, Seattle, WA
    A dive-turned-neighborhood hangout for a friendly, non-smoking, beer-loving crowd.

    Columbia City Ale House
    4914 Rainier Ave S, Seattle, WA
    A smoke-free neighborhood pub with a touch of class and terrific food.

    ToST
    513 N 36th St, Seattle, WA
    Go to Website

    The Nickerson Street Saloon
    318 Nickerson St, Seattle, WA
    This smoke-free taproom draws crowds for fun in Fremont.
    Go to Website

    The Hopvine
    507 15th Ave E, Seattle, WA
    Northwest brews and exemplary grub are the cornerstones of this Capitol Hill pub.

    Hilltop Ale House
    2129 Queen Anne Ave N, Seattle, WA
    The 74th Street Ale House folks did it again, creating a comfortable neighborhood pub noted for good food and great beers.

    Norm’s Eatery & Ale House
    460 N 36th St, Seattle, WA
    A friendly, smoke-free pub for laid-back Fremont folk and their dogs.

    Sorry for the length, I just wanted to make a point.

  23. http://www.smokefreeworld.com/usa.shtml

    Here you go. It took me 5 minutes on google to find a website with links to city by city smoke free establishments in each state.

  24. Ok, iconoclast, you’re Schwartz is impressively big. Fact is, most of us don’t search the internet when we want to grab a beer. Let’s say you’re just some average, non-searching-for-a-bar-on-the-internet guy who wanders into his neighborhood pub. What are the chances it’s non-smoking? 1%? .5%? Is this percentage a proper representation of the % of would-be bar patrons who’d rather drink in a smokeless place?

  25. C

    Jesus man open your own bar if it’s such a big deal with you.

  26. The fact that smokers will go to non-smoking bars proves nothing except that people would rather go to a bar and drink than stay at home and smoke.

    Here in Boston, there were a solid handful of non-smoking bars before The Ban hit in May 2003. Since the ban has taken effect the one most notable development is that more bars are making a point of having outdoor seating, since the law still permits limited smoking in outdoor areas. I’m sure they’ll fix that soon enough though.

    Take away the second-hand-smoke BS and you’re left with the argument, “we don’t like smoke, so you can’t.” Well, I’m annoyed when I walk down the street and get accosted by foul-smelling bums, can I apply for a law against that? I’ll bet plenty of the blue-haired old ladies on Marlborough street get offended seeing a bunch of drunk college kids stumbling home, too, so why not bring back Amendment #18?

    I understand we can’t go riding our horses all over the streets, shooting our guns off in the air and throwing empty whiskey bottles at the ladies out in front of the cathouse, but where precisely does it end?

    Cheers,
    -cwk.

  27. C-
    Seriously, if someone’s criteria for a bar is that it has to be smoke free, then I expect them to look up some smoke free bars. Every city has a city pages, a newspaper, or whatever that gives reviews of bars.

    For crying out loud, am I supposed to set up a hotline for the smoke free and hand them everything on a silver platter so they don’t smell like smoke after the bar? What, are they going to wear their sweaty, dirty bar clothes the next day to work? Do they shower once a week and that’s why they don’t want to smell? Talk about petty, selfish people. Exactly the kind of people that wouldn’t start their own bar because it’s too much work. They want the gov’t to manhandle existing businesses so they don’t have to smell smoke. It’s patently absurd.

  28. Well I guess political correctness has come to the Emerald Isle. Ages ago I spent some time there and they were bigger smokers than most Americans. One would offer a cigerette from his pack to those he was drinking with and the rest would do the same…so you could say there was a social aspect to smoking a well as drinking. Thankfully there are alot of private clubs in Ireland such as the GAA (Gaelic Athletic League)which probably wouldn’t be affected (don’t know that for sure). Probably another option would be to go for a night out over in Northern Ireland if you live reasonably close….don’t know if they’ve been affected in the UK with this madness?

  29. We have: http://www.tobaccofreepartnership.com/

    There’s a number of popular spots here in Des Moines that uses conventional advertising, so I doubt the message isn’t getting to the “internet uninformed.”

  30. Probably part of the reason that there weren’t more non-smoking bars is because the market did not want non-smoking bars. There are very few non-smokers who will only go in non-smoking bars. The vast majority of non-smokers have friends who smoke (and, let’s face it, smokers tend to be more fun) and would rather be with their friends. Since the smoking ban took effect in NYC, my non-smoking friends have been going out a lot less because the smokers among us no longer go out.
    Also, the “higher bar receipts” line is a crock. They factor in places such as McDonalds and take-out when coming up with those statistics. Go and ask any bartender at any bar how their business has been since the ban took effect and I guarantee that, almost without exception, they will tell you that business has been down.
    But the whole argument that nonsmokers could not find nonsmoking bars misses the point. The point is that bars are private property and the business owners should decide whether to allow smoking or not, especially in light of the fact that the second hand smoke argument is bogus.

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