Earlier this year, the State of Washington signed off on cigar rooms:
The bill establishes a special license endorsement for up to 100 cigar rooms, which would each pay $17,500 for a state endorsement.
Up to 500 tobacco shops would have the option to pay $6,000 each to allow indoor cigar and pipe smoking.
Any place where cigar smoking is allowed would be physically separated from places where smoking is banned by law. Cigarettes would not be allowed. Applicants also would need a valid liquor license.
This is a win-win. A little extra revenue for the state and a place that cigar smokers can go where they are unlikely to disturb others. What I find interesting – and telling – about this bill, however, is that cigarettes are not allowed. Because really, who wants to stink up cigar rooms with cigarette smoke. That is, of course, ridiculous. This isn’t about clean air or consumer preferences. Rather, it’s about this: Cigars are classy, but cigarettes are for poor people.
Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the anti-smoking campaign has been the placing of the class marker on it. Cigarettes used to be something cool people did. Moreso than any law, in my opinion, it’s the changing of that which has lead to the reduction of smokers. People don’t want to be associated with cigarette smokers anymore. At some point, it turned personal*.
There was actually a golden age, of sorts, when smokers were pushed out of the office and to a designated smoking area outside. At one of my previous jobs, there was a deck by the smoking dock where we used to go. Everyone from dockworkers to vice presidents (okay, one vice president) would all go out there. We’d talk sports, talk work, and so on. The dock was one of the few places of camaraderie between a vice president and his underlings. We had Hispanic dockworkers, a black driver, a redneck, multiple software developers (some who smoked, some who didn’t but wanted to chat with those of us who did), and me (software testing). All chatting and sucking on poison together.
It was during my time there that things really started to change. The smoking ban expanded from restaurants to bars. And the cycle had really begun to take hold. Smoking became something proles do. And so one by one, the vice president, the developers, and everybody but the dockworkers and driver quit. Our access to the higher-ups became limited to official, and ineffective, channels. Then they banned smoking on the dock and we had to go somewhere else. And without a really designated area, everyone sort of went their own way. One of the great social equalizers in a very hierarchical organization was destroyed.
Which is not to say that it wasn’t for the best, of course, as now a vice president and developers now have healthier lungs. And non-smokers have access to the docks, even if no real reason to actually go there. And the war on smoking has had its successes, with drops in the number of people doing it. But make no mistake, as this transition has occurred and accelerated, it has been increasingly fueled by the demographics of those who smoke and those who do not.
* – Yes, I’m perfectly aware of how things used to be before the smoking bad. Nothing here should be construed as a desire to return to those days. If or when EDK and the others deem fit to give me front-page access, I have a broadeer post on the subject.