From smoke-friendly . . . to smoke-free

UNIVERSITY OF OREGON — If you’ve ever lit someone’s cigarette as an excuse to talk to him or her in a bar, you have three days left to think of some new pick-up lines.

Eugene’s smoking ban will go into effect Sunday, as the Eugene City Council passed the ordinance barring smoking in public places by a 7-1 vote on Nov. 14.

City officials, working with the Lane County Public Health Department, have spent the past month informing the public about the particulars of the ban and its first day on the books with posters, stickers and a Web site.

Jan Bohman, an analyst for the city who has been working on the information campaign, said the city will enforce the smoking ban mostly through a complaint phone line, where people can leave messages detailing violations.

“It’s confidential but not anonymous,” Bohman said.

A violation will cost a business between $50 and $100, and fines will increase with repeat offenses.

Although Bohman has no doubt that Eugene’s ban will go into effect Sunday, a smoke-free night life could be a short-lived phenomenon. The Oregon Legislature is currently considering House Bill 3953, which would keep city governments from enacting smoking bans that are stricter than current state law, including Eugene’s.

The bill is currently being debated in the Senate Subcommittee on Human Services.

Although the ban is citywide, bars and taverns are handling the change in different ways. Some are simply waiting to see what, if any, financial burden the ban will create.

“When people sit to smoke, they tend to stay longer,” said Tom Kamis, a bartender at Soriah Bar and Cafe. But he added that talk about the ban’s effect on business is merely speculation because every bar is facing the new restrictions, and it’s equally hard to predict how customers will react.

Other establishments such as Doc’s Pad are building outdoor seating areas for smokers.

The ordinance prohibits smoking in enclosed rooms and within 10 feet of the entrance to an enclosed room. Smoking will remain legal in tobacco stores, designated smoking rooms in hotels and private residences, unless the residence is used as a day-care or health facility.

Despite the ban’s almost unanimous approval by councilors, bar patrons have mixed feelings of support and disdain for the change.

“I hate breathing in someone else’s cancer,” said Eugene resident Anna Hults as she sat in Soriah with two friends who were both smoking.

One of Hults’ friends, Meghan Besonen of Eugene, said while she opposes the ban and thinks bars should voluntarily choose to go smoke-free, she will continue to go out and simply step outside when she wants to light up.

Many bar patrons, such as junior psychology major Bez Sharkey, say they hope the ban will help them quit. Sharkey said with Oregon’s rainy weather, he expects to pass up a cigarette frequently instead of standing outside or on a patio in a cold, damp climate.

Kamis, who smokes between mixing drinks, said with assurance that he will quit on Sunday. He’s tried before, but he started again because of the people smoking in the bar around him.

“The hardest part was at 10 p.m. when everybody lighted up,” he said. “But if the smoking ban gets lifted, I’ll smoke again.”

Kamis is still against the ban because he believes the council and supporters incorrectly cite public health as an advantage of the ordinance.

He said the majority of people who work in bars smoke themselves, and many smoke-free restaurants with bars already exist in Eugene.

But Eugene resident and self-described part-time smoker Mara Ingerhom said she’s “way excited” about the advantages of every bar being smoke-free.

Kamis suggested that the issue is larger than simply whether a person can enjoy a smoke while having a pint at his or her local pub.

“If they’re [concerned] about public health, they should just stop the sale of cigarettes,” he said.

Copyright Oregon Daily Emerald