Don't forget the musicians. Ban smoking in bars.

Oregonian columnist Margie Boule weighs in today on the proposed ban on smoking in bars. She reminds readers that's it's not just about bar customers and bar staff - but it's also about musicians. After all, just about the only place where up-and-coming musicians can perform and earn an audience is in bars and clubs.

One of those fighting hard for this bill is Norman Sylvester, one of Portland's best-loved blues performers. He's spent a lot of hours singing in smoky bars, and he has the throat problems to prove it.

"A lot of the rooms are so, so, so smoky," he says. "My keyboard player, Frankie Redding . . . had to drop out of my band because my schedule had too many smoky clubs. And now I have a young vocalist working with me, and she's having early vocal problems."

Norman blames secondhand smoke. "I try to be a messenger of music," he says. "I try to stay away from the political-type things. But this is more a workplace safety situation, to me."

Wait a minute. Don't musicians have a choice about where to play? Not exactly...

Bruce Fife went to Salem last week to talk to legislators about the bill. "One of the comments that kept coming up was, 'You guys have a choice' " not to work in smoky bars. Bruce disagrees. "If we choose to be in this industry, virtually every musician at some point in their careers will be in the bars."

Do something about it. Contact your legislators.

If you think musicians and bartenders, waiters, waitresses and others who work in smoky environments deserve to be protected from secondhand smoke, contact your Oregon representative and urge him or her to vote for SB 571. The vote may come as early as next Monday. Observers say it will be a very close vote.

Margie's right. It's going to be a close vote.


  • Ross Lampert (unverified)

    Some Democrats have said they're voting against this and conversely, some Republicans have said they're voting for it. Musicians Union Local 99 was in Salem last Wednesday and we're not sure which way it will go. We need your help!

    Find your legislator here, then give them a call at 800-332-2313.

    Thanks for supporting a safe workplace for musicians!

    Ross Lampert Organizer AFM Local 99 503-235-8791

  • Scott (unverified)

    I've been a gigging musician for ten years now, based primarily in Eugene. Eugene passed a bill such as this one a number of years ago, to the relief of many local musicians. Let me tell you, as a health conscious 19 year old music student, it was of great concern that the only places for me to hone my craft were those in which I would effectively inhale a pack's worth of cigarettes during any given performance; it was a great day when my places of employment began a practice other employers had implemented many years before.

    A sidenote to those club owners who believe a smoking ban would hurt your businesses: think of the business you are not receiving from potential patrons (such as myself) who consciously choose to avoid your establishments because of the health risks associated with breathing your polluted air!

  • (Show?)

    Macpherson "is supportive of the workplace smoking ban," is what I was just told by his office. I neglected to insert the bill number into my question, and when I followed up with "so he'll vote yea on 571?" the staffer would only repeat exactly what he was told by Macpherson. He (the staffer) let on that he assumed that's what was meant...

    so it would be a shocker if he voted No, IMO.

    1 down, 30 to go! If BlueO doesn't mind, how about a roll call? Find your legislator's phone number, give them a call and ask. Reference SB 571 explicitly to avoid the above nonsense. :) Then come back and report your findings.

  • Eric J. (unverified)

    Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette Smoke, smoke, smoke until you smoke yourself to death Tell St. Peter at the golden gate That you hate to make him wait So you just got to have another cigarette.

    It was true when Phil Harris sang it in the 40's, and it's still true today. Even if we ban it, someone will still smoke it.

    But what do I know...right?

  • Hill Bill (unverified)

    Let's keep cigs legal - we can use it to fund health care - but let's ban it and make it illegal...? And then we'll throw up the white flag, surrender to terrorists, raise taxes and implement national health care.

    I just hope the ACLU can find a way to remove crosses from Arlington. Separation of Church and state.

    Peace. Alah Akbar.

  • spicey (unverified)

    thanks for the heads up on this, just sent it out to a couple lists and all of my friends. I would be 100% more likely to head out to a bar if it was smoke-free. might even get me gigging again!

  • poidog1909 (unverified)

    This is a tough one to call. I play music and would prefer not playing in smokey bars. The hang over the next day from second hand smoke is miserable. Where I live there are both smoking and non smoking bars. I seem to be drawn to the lounge atmosphere and often enjoy eating my evening meal in the lounge are of one of the local restaurants. I normaly choose a non smoking lounge being a non smoker, but I also go to one that is smoking but has very good smoke evacuation system. I guess my problem with the all out ban is that it removes choice from the equasion and favors non smokers.

    What if I smoke and want to go sit at a bar with my pals and smoke until I'm delerious and have got that nice yellow night club sun tan? It seems at least possible that one of these social architects trying to save us all could make some allowances for those that don't give a shit. A large sign could read: We Smoke Here. If You Don't Like It, Hold your Breath Or Get The Hell Out.

  • (Show?)

    "A large sign could read: We Smoke Here. If You Don't Like It, Hold your Breath Or Get The Hell Out."

    What do the people who work there do?

  • Jake Oken-Berg (unverified)

    This is must pass legislation. As a musician, I can tell you that there are very few small venues for up and coming bands that are non-smoking in Oregon. Fortunately our band is now playing in larger venues that are non-smoking but that hardly makes me feel better about the hundreds of great new bands that have to fill their lungs with smoke to get out their music.

    All of my friends that smoke have told me that they are more than happy to have a smoking ban in bars and restaurants -- they have no problem stepping outside to smoke. Good ventilation systems are expensive and most small venues will not spend the money to put them in. In these venues it only takes a few smokers to fill the air and send everyone home smelling of smoke. It was incredible to take our first tour to California last year and have EVERY venue be smoke free.

    I'll be contacting my legislators tomorrow. Kudos to the Musicians Union Local 99 for working to pass this legislation.

  • roxanne bruns (unverified)

    I could not be more supportive of a smoking ban in bars and restaurants. We make all sorts of laws that protect people even in private places, and the dangers of second hand smoke are substantial.

    Further, I certainly enjoy a beer from time to time, but find it difficult to enjoy a drink and a conversation when I am choking down somebody else's smoke. Drinking my beer hurts my own liver, not anybody else's. Smoking hurts the smokers lungs, and everybody else's within the confined space. This seems like a no-brainer to me, and anything short of successful legislation will be a failure of the session.

  • Ricky (unverified)

    "What do the people who work there do?"

    You would figure they would know what they were getting themselves into applying at a place with a sign that reads "We Smoke Here. If You Don't Like It, Hold your Breath Or Get The Hell Out."

    Non-smoking bars should be a decision of the ownership. I know plenty of bars that are smoke-free and I know many that are quite smoker-friendly. This is a piece of law I am not comfortable with. I am capable of making choices myself.

    Something interesting:

  • Pat Malach (unverified)

    The Laurelthirst lost three potential patrons last weekend because we didn't want to sit in a smoke-filled bar all night and then have our hair and clothes smell like cigarettes when we got home. (A room full of unwashed hippies is bad enough, but unwashed SMOKING hippies? ... That's waaaayyyy too much).

  • Joe Smith (unverified)

    the missing part, of course, is the elephant in the room:

    cigarette smoke kills people, whether they're holding the cigarette or not.

    however, i can sit next to an alcoholic with a failing liver and not get sick at all.

    try this: apply the "if you don't like it, get the hell out" defense to automobile exhaust that's proven to kill and sicken thousands every year.

    c'mon, folks--smoking in a private establishment is not a "right". drinking there is not a "right".

    and if you think the smoke stays indoors (it doesn't, thanks to door, people taking it with them, and heavy-duty exhaust fans blowing it into the neighborhood) you really need to wake up.

  • (Show?)
    "What do the people who work there do?" You would figure they would know what they were getting themselves into applying at a place with a sign that reads "We Smoke Here. If You Don't Like It, Hold your Breath Or Get The Hell Out."

    I was referring to those who already worked there.

  • (Show?)

    Non-smoking bars should be a decision of the ownership.

    Coffee shop owners don't make this decision for themselves; neither do universities or retail stores. We've decided as a state that smoking is bad enough to do away with it in most public places. Why should bar owners get a special pass?

    I'm with the musicians (not literally, but certainly in spirit.) They shouldn't have to put their health and lives at risk to make a living. And this bill IS very close, so I will make the call.

  • Theo Burke (unverified)

    I was one of the musicians lobbying in Salem for SB 571 on May 30.

    There is no "choice" when you become smoke-sensitive. Whether or not you become smoke sensitive is also not your choice, anymore than "becoming" dyslexic, blind, or autistic--it just happens. When it happens, you're at the mercy of what society will offer you in the way of smoke-free air, grand philosophies of rugged individual choice be damned. Like someone pointed out, someone else's drinking, drug use, or skydiving doesn't demand that I get drunk, take drugs, or skydive. This is more like speeding on the highway; someone else's behavior DIRECTLY changes the quality of my life. The vote on this is TOMORROW or Wednesday!! PLEASE call your legislator!

    Theo Burke Pianist Choir Director Band Leader Political Worker

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