I still have not been able to come up with a concrete opinion on the subject. I do not smoke and with my friends, some do and others do not. My tolerance to it is much higher then most people so I generally do not mind being in a restaurant or a bar that allows smoking inside. I do prefer a non-smoking place over the other but only in a few instances has that been a determining factor in my activities. Everyone has a different opinion here and comes from different lifestyles so I believe no one is truly right. Here is some coverage of the proposed smoking ban in the state for those not following it.
Rather then discuss the new ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, because that won’t get us anywhere, let’s focus on downtown Raleigh and how the ban may affect the area. If all bars went non-smoking, it is tough to tell how people would change, if at all, their regular drinking and eating spots. My group of friends have a pretty set pattern of bars we go to and I think that pattern will remain no matter what. Others may go to a bar more often if it was forced to be smoke free, changing their usual lineup of watering holes. It varies on people and groups of friends. With that said, the largest impact of the no smoking ban would be on tourists to downtown Raleigh. (and props to Chris for giving me this blog post idea)
While the local population will quickly adjust and think nothing of it in no time, visitors have the highest potential of recognizing this change and thinking positively of downtown Raleigh. I have nothing against people smoking but if you look at the following two scenarios, most of us will agree on the general result. I’ll focus on bars since this is the most likely place to find smoking going on; restaurants usually do a good job of offering seperate sections.
Situation: A group of 100 people visit downtown on a weekend and are staying in downtown hotels, 50 are smokers and 50 are non-smokers.
I Current scenario: Decision is up to the business owner.
Right now, downtown Raleigh has more bars that allow smoking then prohibit it. Our 100 visitors decide to venture out and see what downtown has to offer. In my opinion, I think that smokers will be mildly inconvenienced. The very few places that do not allow it do have access to the outdoors, whether it is their own patio or outside the front door on the sidewalk. For the non-smokers, it will all depend on how well they tolerate it (and I know some places are worse then others) but most bars in downtown Raleigh will inconvenience this visiting crowd. If they have to step outside for fresh air, that means they have to leave the place they chose to visit, possibly upsetting that visitor. Also, people usually seek out non-smoking places and since downtown Raleigh offers only a handful of options, it may not look good to most of the non-smoking crowd.
Smokers – mostly happy, above average impression of DT Raleigh.
Non-smokers – average, DT Raleigh is ok.
II Possible future: Zero smoking allowed in all bars.
Now that all bars are smoke free, we can talk about how the same 100 visitors may act. With no option at all, smokers have to make use of outdoor areas, which is shared by everyone, and for the most part, less bothersome then lighting up indoors. Since this is the same way everywhere, I think that those who choose to smoke will accept it. The non-smoking crowd has one less thing to worry about and smoke will never negatively impact their opinion of downtown Raleigh.
Smokers – Mostly happy, above average impression of DT Raleigh.
Non-smokers – mostly happy, above average impression of DT Raleigh.
There is no science to this little scenario I just blabbed on about but please comment if you feel differently. I am not saying smoking is the only factor that affects downtown’s impression but if it was a non-issue, then that would be the way to go. Anyway, the simple point I’m trying to make is that if there was consistency across the board, everyone would adjust fine rather then cope with an inconvenience and possibly carry a negative opinion about our area. Here is a Wikipedia entry with a map showing states and their current smoking bans. There are lots of states with some level of restriction of smoking in restaurants and bars. The non-smoking crowd is much more likely to think negatively of downtown bars if they come from a state that bans it. I do not know the answer to this but would a smoker from these same states like downtown Raleigh more if he or she found out they could smoke indoors? These days, I’d bet the answer is no in most cases.