Friday, January 19, 2007

What Have I Been Smoking?

The other day, on the online version of the Chicago Tribune, I read where three southwestern Chicago suburbs are temporally lifting the smoking ban that they had placed into effect on January 2nd. Why? Because the Chicago Bears are in the playoffs. The local bar owners in these three Chicago suburbs claim that their sales last Sunday were down more than 30% below normal, when they actually should have been higher than normal due to the Bears being in the Divisional Playoff game. Their customers complained that they had to go outside into the frigid Chicago air to smoke their cigarettes.

Chicagoans enjoy watching their local sporting events with friends in local bars and pubs. This is a tradition passed down from father to son. My Dad, who rarely drank alcohol, would take me to the “local saloon” to watch the Bears play on Sunday afternoons. The bar had a Color TV and ours, at home. was Black and White. We drank Cokes; mine with several Maraschino Cherries in it them. It was father and son bonding, plus a good reason for him to get away from my Mom’s nagging him, for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon.

I’m a smoker and have been for 40 years. I went from smoking a pack or less a day in the late 60’s (costing 78 cents per carton, when purchasing them in the military commissary overseas), to my current habit of smoking 2 to 3 packs a day at $30 per carton. I’m an anti smoking advocate, as I know that I am killing myself slowly, but surely. I can not stop and I have tried to do so several times: so I preach to others, especially young people, not to ever get started on this addiction to tobacco and the foul habit that I have incurred. I have tried to quit several times with no lasting success. Cold Turkey, Nicorettes and the Patch, let’s face it I’m a nicotine addict.

Smoking and drinking, as Forrest Gump would say, “go together like peas and carrots.” I increase my cigarette consumption whenever I am out drinking with friends. I also increase my consumption of alcoholic beverages when being out with friends. There is definitely a correlation here, which I do not understand. However, my bad habits puts more money in the pockets of the service employees and the Bar owners. Believe it or not, my drinking and smoking is good for our economy.

The State of Florida passed a smoking ban for drinking establishments that had more than 10% of their gross sales in food sales, three years ago. The effect has been devastating to a lot of the local establishments here on Treasure Island. Smokers, like me, now tend to frequent bars that do not serve food or establishments serving food with outdoor facilities, where you can smoke your cigarettes without harmful second hand smoke. This has been a boon to some of our local businesses, but the kiss of death to others that do not have outside facilities. Several local restaurants have closed due to the smoking ban. Tourism here on the Islands is also down.

Regardless of what they say, smoking bans, however good they may be for the health of employees in Bars and Restaurants, have hurt these same employees financially in the long run. The European tourists that once had frequented Treasure Island every winter are now rarely seen; most of them were heavy smokers who didn’t mind spending $100 per night for their dinner and drinks, during the week or two that they had spent here annually. They generated a lot of income for local establishments and their employees.

Unsurprisingly, smokers also have a tendency to drink more, spend more money plus tip a higher percentage than the average non-smoker. In addition, the smoking customers will rarely, if ever, complaint about odors emanating from behind the Bar, the dirty carpets or the loudness of the music in the bar.

I have been told by service employees in the Bar and Restaurant business that non-smokers will usually complain about everything imaginable, including the price of their food and drinks. Then these same non-smoking customers will cheat the bartender or their server out of a decent tip for services rendered, because they were supposedly not happy with their food or their service. According to the local service people, Non-Smokers tend to be “constant complainers”. Many of these employees do not smoke, however they prefer waiting on smokers rather than non-smokers.

Non-smokers seemingly are the bane of the bar and restaurant business here in Florida, that is, if you listen to bartenders and servers, who would rather take in the second hand smoke and make more money, than work in a smoke free environment.

At my favorite watering hole, the bartenders all vie to work in the outside open air bar. Why? It’s simple; they wait on smokers and therefore put more money in their pockets!

The Beach Bum

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