Ban Smoking in Bars

By Warren Fish of Portland, Oregon. Warren says he's "policy wonkin' with Jeff Cogen's team of renegades at Multnomah County. He likes justice, his dog, fish, hiking, skiing, and eating well."

State Senate Bill 571, which bans smoking indoors (read: bars) passed 18-12 in the Oregon Senate! Now it's onto the House.

This version would exempt cigar shops and racetracks, and it wouldn't take effect until 2009. But it's a real smoking ban.

If it passes, we'll protect the workers and customers in all of Oregon's bars and restaurants from second hand smoke exposure. Second hand smoke is a known carcinogen and a serious health hazard. Passing this legislation would make Oregon the 18th state in the nation to extend our workplace smoking ban to bars and restaurants. If it's good enough for Washington, California and New York, we can make it work here in Oregon.

Bar owners: build a deck, patio, or awning, and quit guffawing. Your customers will only be outside for a few minutes and then you'll have them back.

Time to call your State Representatives. You know they will be hearing from loads of tavern owners, and the cigarette industry will definitely pull out all the stops lobbying against this bill. Our Legislators shouldn't give another inch to restaurant and bar owners. They already get one of the sweetest and most ridiculous state subsidies ever devised (about 25% of the gambling profits from every machine), and frankly, the case that a smoking ban will actually lower their profits is flimsy.

  • Jonathan Radmacher (unverified)

    The O's story on this was pretty funny -- front page picture of Vancouver resident who won't come to Portland to play bingo any longer, if this passes. Oh no, think of the lost revenue from smoking (smokin' ?) Vancouver bingo-players.

  • spicey (unverified)

    2008 would work for me. Actually, how about immediately? Why do legislators give everyone a year to adjust to something like this? It should have happened 10 years ago. I encourage them to take a real stand - ban starts now! Or at least 2008. And thanks for the head's up on this.

  • hilsy (unverified)

    I was told at a recent town meeting with our state representative and senator that the delay of implementation to January 2009 is due to the expected drop in revenue from cigarette taxes and lottery games. I emailed my rep yesterday and called BS on that. And here is why....following is part of the text of the statue as it will be amended by SB 571 in its current form: "433.840. The people of Oregon find that because exposure to secondhand smoke is known to cause cancer and other chronic diseases such as heart disease, asthma and bronchitis, it is necessary to reduce exposure to tobacco smoke by prohibiting smoking in all public places and places of employment."

    It is important enough that the "people of Oregon" find it "necessary to reduce exposure to tobacco smoke by prohibiting smoking in all public place" but not important enough to enact it now. Let all those employees exposed to second hand smoke remain exposed for another year.

    And wouldn't a reduction in cigarette tax revenue as result of fewer cigarettes being sold be a good thing for the general health of the state?

  • bk (unverified)

    Instead of a ban, why not a smoking license? The revenue could be used to fund health care.

  • kennygg (unverified)

    whats all the crap at the bottom of the bill. it doesn't look like it's talking about smoking.

  • ws (unverified)

    Smoking anywhere is bad, even outdoors, but are we going to reach a point where smokers will be prohibited from smoking everywhere except where they're completely isolated from those that don't? I'm wondering just what the consequences of such an eventuality might be. I basically hate smoking, but have a feeling that for some people, smoking meets a certain undeniable need. It's easy to write that need off as simple addiction, but the problem is likely, far more complicated than that. I wonder if we really know what we're doing with this gradual elimination of the opportunity to smoke in almost all places where the public gathers. Are private smoking clubs allowed?

  • (Show?)

    Does anyone know why Portland Meadows gets an exemption?

    Also, as to "Bar owners: build a deck, patio, or awning, and quit guffawing. Your customers will only be outside for a few minutes and then you'll have them back.", one wonders how that can be said with a straight face given the "no smoking within 10 feet of doors, windows, vents" part of the law. Where should they build their patios? On the street?

  • LiberalIncarnate (unverified)

    While I certainly understand smokers feeling of being "persecuted", this is an issue that is serious health concern. This is goes beyond individual rights to smoke, but toward the rights of those that choose not to smoke.

    A smoking license would be incredibly hard to enforce, since there are far more smokers than there are smoking establishments. Also, what is to stop someone from smoking in their own home? Who is going to go door-to-door to check people's licenses? Answer: No one. If someone wants to smoke in their own home, by all means.

    The fact is that restaurants and bars will see an adjustment period, but overall, it has been shown that while some smokers will choose not to go to these places, more non-smokers will.

    To all those that choose to smoke, look at some before and after pictures of yourself. Even if you do not currently have cancer or another aliment, look at your face. See those wrikles? See those yellow teeth? How many attractive people have I seen slowly deteriorate?

  • (Show?)

    I was tending bar downtown Bend in the late eighties when the owner of the bar I worked at decided, on his own, to go smoke free. Needless to say being a non-smoker all of my life, I jumped for joy. It was so nice not to have cloths smell like an ash tray after one nights work. Once we went smoke-free, I immediately felt better the next morning after working my shift.

  • Becky (unverified)

    I think it's just as wrong to deny smokers a place to smoke as it is to force others to inhale that smoke second-hand. So I think we should try to establish air quality standards and then allow smoking in bars that install ventillation systems that will allow the air quality in the bar to comply with those standards even if people are smoking. That way, people still can have a smoke with their drink without endangering the health of the employees. I've been in bars where the smoking wasn't a problem. The problem is when it sits in the room and you have to breathe it in.

  • Andrew (unverified)

    As a bar customer myself, I still scratch my head at the argument that bars will have fewer customers and the Oregon lottery will have fewer revenues.

    Last time I checked, people go to a bar to drink. We aren't banning alcohol consumption, are we? As long as they have easy access to a covered patio (most bars have such a thing), then I don't think this will be problematic. The ban should take place right away.


  • (Show?)

    Becky, if there's truly technology and a manageable standard that can be applied to bar and restaurant owners who want to keep smoking, I wouldn't necessarily have a problem with it. There'd have to be some kind of certification process, though, and bar owners as a group would have to pay for the administrative costs of monitoring compliance.

  • ed (unverified)

    State of the art air cleaners remove not only dilute cigarette smoke but every one of thousands of other pollutants including body odor. Why not lobby for those instead of squawking about cigarette smoke only? Answer: You wouldn't have a Tobacco War if you did. But your demands for "clean air" are obviously phony.

  • Harry (unverified)

    I think that smoking should be banned both indoors and outdoors. Then we might as well ban cigarettes and cigars as well.

    If cigarettes & smoking are outlawed, then only outlaws will be smokin'. Then we can legally smoke the outlaws.


  • (Show?)

    KennyGG asked, "whats all the crap at the bottom of the bill. it doesn't look like it's talking about smoking."

    A teachable moment. This is critical to understanding how to read legislation, but nobody ever points it out. Most of the bill is EXISTING law. The new stuff is the stuff inside {+ the plus signs +}. Stuff that's old and will removed is {- inside the minus signs -}.

    There's a note at the top of each bill, but people often miss it.

    NOTE: Matter within { + braces and plus signs + } in an amended section is new. Matter within { - braces and minus signs - } is existing law to be omitted. New sections are within { + braces and plus signs + } .

    Sometimes you'll see, attached to a bill, a bunch of unrelated cleaning-up of language. They do that since it's not particularly convenient to pass legislation just for housekeeping purposes.

  • (Show?)

    Bix asked, Does anyone know why Portland Meadows gets an exemption?

    Your answer is here.

  • (Show?)

    I think it's just as wrong to deny smokers a place to smoke as it is to force others to inhale that smoke second-hand.

    There's nothing in this bill that denies smokers a place to smoke. They can smoke all they want -- just not indoors.

  • pedro (unverified)

    i like becky's workplace air standards idea. perhaps that would not go over to well because the air standards are poor in other employers where cigarette smoke is not the issue? or maybe air standards are preempted by federal regulations?

  • (Show?)

    When it comes to smoking, it has to be all or nothing.

    When it's free choice -- a business can decide to allow smoking or not -- businesses are almost always going to choose to allow smoking. Why? They don't want to do anything that encourages customers to go somewhere else.

    But when everyone is required to not allow smoking, then business owners can do what they wanted to in the first place, without creating a situation where their customers are going to go somewhere else.

    While working as a reporter, I sat through a lot of meetings on this. The town and the county I worked in were both looking at going smoke free.

    The businesses and their organizations all came in and spoke. They weren't against the ban -- they actually wanted the state legislature to make it statewide. What they were against was one city or one county doing the ban. That encouraged customers to drive up the street just a little way until they were out of the city/county and go elsewhere. Proof that this happens was already evident at the county line-- liquor stores on the other side of the county border since the county was semi-dry (beer sales ok, everything else you had to be a member of a "club.").

    I'm glad they did this. I remember working in a restaurant and going home smelling like smoke. Plus, as good as the ventilation system was, the smoke not only traveled around on the servers, but still worked its way to those tables near the doorways.

    Now I go to restaurants with my daughter quite often. It's my weakness - I love eating out at restaurants. But you'll arrive and the food specials are only available in the bar eating area. Which means: pay more or sit with the smoke.

    Even when it's just been me and my husband and we've ordered alcoholic drinks from the bar, we were still denied the food specials.

  • ellie (unverified)

    I still don't know how I feel about this from a legal or policy perspective, but personally I do think it will/would help me. I smoke occasionally -- usually socially, so it's typically at a bar with friends who smoke. I guess this means I won't be doing that anymore -- and for that I'm sure my body is grateful. Having tended bar in a smoking establishment in the past, I'm sure I would have appreciated it even more. Back then I smoked on breaks because, well, you don't get breaks if you don't smoke in some places. So I guess what I'm saying is, had this law been in effect a decade ago, I would have inhaled a hell of a lot less cigarette smoke. Who knows what price I'll pay for that down the road.

  • (Show?)

    Ellie pretty well summed up my position as well. Actually, I'll go one step further and say I actively dislike the smoking ban on principle (my inner libertarian doesn't go for legislating personal behavior), however I'm hoping it will pass anyway and am looking forward to when it goes into effect. I too fall prey to the smoking urge more often than I like (playing pool is a particular weakness) and can't wait till smoking is as impractical as possible.

  • (Show?)

    Ed, when you show me that body odor is a proven carcinogen, then I will buy your argument. Not that I enjoy stinky people next to me (who does?), but it is less costly and much easier to enforce compliance with smoking bans than air quality HVAC systems because someone's got the stank.

  • (Show?)
    Posted by: Nate Currie | May 23, 2007 5:38:26 PM

    So your inner libertarian says that your 'right' to shit in the public square or in the water supply trumps my 'right' to not have to smell and/or ingest your feces?

  • James X. (unverified)

    A smoky workplace is an abusive labor practice. It causes employees lung cancer and other severe cardiopulmonary diseases. There should be no exemptions, and job-hunters should not have the option to so severely sacrifice their health for a job.

    Air ventilation systems do not work, unless you want to create hospital-like negative-pressure chambers that continuously suck out all of the air from a room. Not feasible.

    Tobacco companies should not be exempt from consumer protection laws. If a consumer dies from use of their product, they should pay damages.

    These are not hard-line positions, this is common sense obstructed only by the largess of big tobacco.

  • Sadie (unverified)

    Smoking has been banned in bars in CA for a long time now. People used the "it will hurt business" logic there, too. It was a crock. I can guarantee you the bars in San Diego were still packed even with smoking bans in place. I enjoyed the fact that I could be the designated driver when I was pregnant and I didn't have to worry about smelling second hand smoke while at the bar with my husband and our friends.

    Since moving here five years ago I've spent very little time in bars (having young children will do that to you). But I can honestly say that there would have been more times that I would have gone if there wasn't so much disgusting smoke to deal with. So I would argue that more people will feel free to frequent bars if you ban smoking.

    There's no just reason to blow your death causing smoke in somebody else's face and air space. Go outside have a smoke then come back in the bar.

  • Obamas Ciggie (unverified)

    Before we increase the scope of the Nanny State, why not spend more time/money enforcing our existing drug laws?

    I watched two narcotic transactions take place (in 20 minutes) during my lunch hour today...In the heart of downtown Portland (SW Broadway, just in front of Teuscher Chocolates) in broad daylight. There's a brand spanking new jail, with accomodations for 600, that is sitting empty.

    If I can watch two drug sales in 20 minutes, I would guess they happen with some frequency. The bus mall looks more like a "Night of the Living Dead" movie than the heart of our city: the addicts and beggars outnumber the construction workers and non-afflicted. My friends have started calling it the "Meth Mall" and several of them don't even want to come downtown anymore.

    Lot's of new empty storefronts, and a hostile environment for tourists and locals is going to hurt the city.

    In terms of societal decay and adverse health effects, we have much bigger battles to fight than smoking in bars.

  • Trollbuster (unverified)

    OC: Why hold public health hostage until nobody buys or sells drugs anymore? Sounds like poor logic to me.

  • (Show?)

    lestatdelc: So your inner libertarian says that your 'right' to shit in the public square or in the water supply trumps my 'right' to not have to smell and/or ingest your feces? No. My inner libertarian says that public spaces should be protected for the common good. However, it also says that if a business owner wants to run a private establishment where patrons shit in the common area (presumably because he or she imagines that there is some sort of demand for such an establishment), he or she should be allowed to do so, and potential customers can make a simple decision as to whether or not they would like to frequent such an establishment.

  • Garrett (unverified)

    Dear non smokers that love this new law,

    Please do not call the OLCC when your neighborhood bar has a bunch of drunk a-holes standing outside until 2:30 in the morning screaming at the top of their lungs and your yard is littered with cigarrette butts. I've been to Washington and yes...this actually happens.

    I went to a bar tonight. I smoked 2 cigarettes. I spoke with the owner of the establishment who said something very valid. "I don't make people smoke and I don't make my employees work here." I still think that if a smoking ban is enacted they should let only BAR goers vote on it because most of the people that love this bill NEVER GO TO A CRAPPY DIVE BAR. They go to Henry's and the Doug Fir. They don't allow smoking who cares if the Triple Nickel or Kelly's Olympian still lets people smoke inside. If you don't like it go to one of the many places that doesn't allow it. We all have choices and you will never convince me that an employee at a crappy bar can't find a job anywhere else that doesn't allow smoking. Riddle me that batman?

    That being said I kind of hope this is actually passed because it will be the nail in the coffin of my "I only smoke when I drink" statement which is very true. I will completely quit because I hate the weather in the winter here and I'd rather be warm than smoke a cigarette.

  • (Show?)

    This isn't just about "crappy bars," but about a lot of other establishments.

    Like restaurants that have a bar area.

    If I go to Chili's during happy hour and want to pay the lower prices, I have to sit in the bar - with the smokers.

    If I arrive during a busy time of the day/night, my only option for a seat may be in the bar area.

    There are a lot more places that allow smoking than just crappy bars.

  • Obamas Ciggie (unverified)

    In my experience, progressives are generally ambivalent about fighting the War on Drugs...I've never understood why. I assume it's because they don't believe that narcotics users can be reformed by jail time.

    If you don't support aggressive enforcement/prosecution of our drug laws, why pass a new law outlawing the consumption of a legal drug?

    To put it another way: if we lack the necessary resources to keep cocaine, meth, ecstasy, and heroin off the streets and high schools of Oregon, do we have the necessary resources to keep tobacco out of bars/restaurants?

    Love the smoker, but not the smoke? Y'all would make Jim West squirm in his corinthian leather executive chair.

    Bunch of hypocrites!

  • dartagnan (unverified)

    While I would support a ban on smoking in indoor public spaces, including bars, I believe the true agenda of the anti-tobacco zealots is much broader -- to eradicate all tobacco use.

    For example, the student government of Central Oregon Community College in my town of Bend recently voted to make the college a "tobacco-free campus." Not only will people be forbidden to smoke anywhere on campus -- including inside their own parked cars -- but they also will be forbidden to use tobacco products of any kind, including smokeless tobacco.

    It's not possible to make the case that users of smokeless tobacco are harming anyone but themselves. So essentially this policy was enacted because some people just don't approve of The Evil Weed.

  • James X. (unverified)

    "Disapproval of The Evil Weed?" It's a product that kills half its consumers. Of course it should be banned, just like any other product that kills half its consumers.

    Don't like the idea of big government banning your favorite suicide device? Then the common-sense alternative is to just have big government stop protecting the industry from consumer lawsuits. So when you die from smoking, your family can sue your favorite tobacco company for damages. That will put them out of business without government interference.

  • Ed (unverified)


    "When you show me that body odor is a proven carcinogen, then I will buy your argument."

    I refuse to argue with anyone who believes smelling smoke causes cancer, The notion is so preposterous it doesn't merit a response.

    90 year old smokers are commonplace. When you can explain that to me, I'll buy your argument.

  • Garlynn - (unverified)

    I say, enact the ban first. Certainly, CA and NY have shown that this much is simple, and bars don't go out of business as a result -- because it applies to ALL bars.

    Then, if the smokers really want an exemption so they can still smoke indoors at bars, they can lobby the legislature to pass a follow-up measure that allows bars to construct walled-off, ventilation-sealed smoking rooms with heavy air circulation. Not every bar could have one, of course, but then some bars could, at their expense, provide such a facility.

    At this point in time, however, it's a public health issue for Oregonians. Last time I checked, the majority of Oregonians are non-smokers. Why should the majority be ruled by the obnoxious ciggy-smoking minority whenever they want to go out for a drink? Let the ciggy-smoking minority go outside for a few minutes while they smoke, and then come back in.

    This could have the perverse effect of increasing business for bars, as people cruising streets looking for happening bars see clusters of smokers outside the entrance of a bar, and know that's a happening spot that they should check out!!!

  • JJ Ark (unverified)


    I really don't give a S*^& about smoking indoors. I smoke outside. Oddly enough I picked up a friend at his hotel room last weekend before going to see a flick, and he had a smoking room. I had forgotted just how stinky smoking indoors can be. I left and I could smell it on my jacket, after two cigs (one mine, one his) and about 10 mins in there. And I smoke.

    Now, if they start going all Fireman Randy on us, and ban smoking on the streets, we have another issue.

    Once again, tho...I strongly suggest we just cut the cord and ban smoking altogether. It really would make things easier in the long run. Think of it! The only non-smoking STATE! Lower health insurance rates, lower automobile accident rates, better teeth, less litter, happier citizens, pets that spay and neuter themselves. Whoops...sorry...wrong Utopia ;-)

  • Janice Graves (unverified)

    I don't know where you got your information on lottery commissions from the state,but they are closer to 15%. Second, if you don't smoke, DON'T GO TO WORK IN AN ESTABLISHMENT THAT ALLOWS SMOKING!!!! This whole ban on smoking in public is out of control. Homosexual people can get married, people can use drugs on the streets, and drunk drivers kill people, but God forbid, don't light up a cigarette. Come on people, it is not a black mark on the morals of society. As for the post by JJ Ark...since when did smoking a cigarette make auto insurance go up? Who do you know has ever had to carry an SR-22 on their insurance due to the fact that they smoked a cigarette and drove? Really people....Time for a reality check!

guest column

connect with blueoregon