Sunday, October 16, 2005

Smoking kills...

...more than just people, apparently. Especially if you read this story. The Beverage Industry Association is reporting that at least four bars have closed since the smoking ban came into place.

When any new legislation comes into place, there are always surprises that you never expected. Even well written legislation can miss stuff. So when the smoking ban came into place back on July 1, I knew there would be a few surprises.

For example, people were still finding ways around it. I only go to a few bars, but I enjoyed the ways that both the Duke and the Ship snuck around it. Then again, people have been sneaking out of those bars to smoke things other than cigarettes for years (No one write to me complaining about this. It's not like I'm giving away a big secret here and if the RNC don't know about it, then they're idiots.)

The biggest unexpected surprise for me was how much more unpleasant it became to walk in front of bars. All the people who can't smoke in bars step outside for a smoke. It meant that walking down parts of Water Street and George Street was like a walk during a particularly foggy evening. Except this fog could give you cancer a few decades down the line.

But one thing that didn't surprise me was that some bars were going to close. Because there are always people who want to deny the current situation and turn back time. Always.

You were divorced from reality to have not seen this coming. Other cities in Canada have banned smoking in bars. Ireland banned it, for Christ's sake. So you had to know it was coming.

Maybe they did the following, but I have my doubts. But a smart association of businessmen would have negotiated the terms of surrender years ago. You know it's coming. You've tried to fight it. But governments and the general public want this. And least we forget, warp the statistics all you want, fewer than 25% of people smoke in Newfoundland anymore. So a sizeable majority want this. So why not make yourselves look good and agree to the smoking ban because you too have concerns about the health of your employees and customers. But before we do that, we have a few things we'd like to see changed. Y'know, to help us out while we take a hit for doing the right thing.

I know bars are overtaxed. They pay more to buy their booze than I would going to the liquor store. And that's just silly. The surcharge on booze is being rolled back over a number of years, but maybe they could have gotten it done in one year. I was at the budget announcement this year and the Beverage Industry Association, instead of saying we're glad to see it, complained about how long it was going to take. I saw Marcel Etheridge and a bar owner interrupt a Loyola Sullivan press conference on the smoking ban just for a bit of attention. It's the only reason I can think of do that because they certainly didn't make any friends in government that day.

No clue, I swear to God. I honestly wonder if the association is doing such a bad job, and being so obnoxious, that that's the reason why the provincial government started to reduce the number of VLTs. Just to put a few more screws into the association for pissing them off so much.

There were ways to gain concessions from the government. To make it easier for them to do business to compensate for the temporary loss of business that was going to occur with the ban. And this is temporary. It might take a year. It might take a couple of years. But after that, people will still be going to bars because they still want to be sociable, drink and have a good time.

They just don't want to deal with cigarette smoke. This is a reality. Smart businessmen would figure out a way to adapt to reality so their business could survive it. Less than cunning ones keep railing against it, even though it will do no good.

Hazard a guess which way the Beverage Industry Association is going. It seems damned and determined to continue to go down that later path, even if it means the last bar in the province closes to prove their point.

And I should feel sympathetic for them? No. People are losing businesses and jobs and that's too bad. But there were ways to avoid that. To compensate. Complaining about a done deal that isn't going to change, and that the majority don't want changed, doesn't strike me as the best business plan.

Finally, one more bit of advice to the Beverage Industry Association...really, seriously, hire another spokesman. Because Etheridge is about the most unsympathetic, generally obnoxious spokesman for any organization I've ever seen. He's terrible at his job. He makes me want to ban booze at bars.

1 comment:

Dups said...

Funny, I thought that with the Edmonton banning smoking we'd see the same drop in bar attendance that I saw in St. John's when I was back this summer. In reality the bars seem to be as full as ever. People mosey on out of the bar to have their cig and no complaints. Naturally the -30 degree weather hasn't come knocking onto our doorsteps yet.

I think the bars in St. John's are doing a very poor job of encouraging people to come into the establishments. Like you point out though, maybe some help from the city and province is in order. I'd hate to see the Duke closed down... that's one of my homes in SJ. Maybe getting some quality entertainment? Advertising?

Smoking does kill. The people who complain that business is more important should go visit a person with emphysema in hospital. I suggest that the entire Beverage Association take up smoking a pack a day if they are willing to stand by the idea that smoking doesn't kill. Put your money where your mouth is.