Very close to the top of things you notice when moving to St Louis from Chicago is the smoking indoors. To see someone light up indoors is somehow shocking at first glance even after only a year. Although Chicago went completely smoke-free on January 1st 2008 it had been mostly smoke-free for a few years before then. Even after a month of trying to get used to eating with smoke wafting about the room, it hasn't been an easy transition. I have to say I'm surprised St Louis isn't smoke free. But I completely understand.
I smoked cigarettes for 15 years. At least a pack a day. I also grew up in a smoking house. Both Mom and Dad smoked indoors. Later myself and my two siblings would smoke inside as well. Like chimneys. I can only imagine now what our house must have smelled like! Maybe that's why we never had visitors.
Anyway, make no mistake about it, I was a hard-core smoker and would be so until I turned 30. It's been a year and a half now since I cold-turkey quit smoking and I couldn't be more happy about it. I feel better, smell better, save money, blah blah blah. Whatever, I'm not writing this to tell you to quit. But here's something you don't realize as a smoker. It's fucking with your mind.
Smoky Robinson soothes the mind. Big difference.
I was in full nicotine addiction mode when Chicago started painting the town non-smoking. I (as I assume many smoking St Louisans do) thought that it was ridiculous and taking away my rights. I literally theorized, and I distinctly remember saying this to myself, "smoke doesn't really bother anyone" and if it did they were being a little too sensitive. Not that I would ever smoke around someone who really didn't like it. I understood being close to someone who didn't like smoking could be a bit much. But really, if you are going to a restaurant to eat they have a separate section. Why isn't that good enough? I never had problems with my parents smoking when I was a child. I have no memory of myself fake coughing to let my parents know I thought they were douchebags for smoking around me. To me, Chicago's new smoking rules smacked of Smokism. (racism + smoking - reality = Smokism)
That was until I experienced those rules. It didn't take long for me to appreciate the cleaner air of a restaurant. And certainly, at first, I resented heading outside for a smoke, but you quickly get used to it. It became just what you do. You still don't think it makes that much of a difference but you can appreciate it nonetheless.
Bars, of course, are another story. That was your one refuge and a smoking home you would never agree to give up. Alcohol and cigarettes go together like coffee and cigarettes... perfectly. I had even actually quit by the time the full smoking ban went into effect and I was against the judgement on bars. It seemed like the one place you should be able to smoke inside. It came very close to a full force rebellion in Chicago until, lo and behold, people started to like it. Me included of course.
It was awesome not leaving the bar completely reeking. Your throat was no longer sore in the morning. You no longer found cigarette burns on your coat from when your sleeve accidentally touched some dude's loosely held smoke. Even the smokers themselves began to admit they didn't mind. Plus many of the bars catered to the smokers outdoor needs by putting in heated tents and the like. In the Summer I often even joined the smokers outside to enjoy the weather. It's fairly safe to say, that Chicago going smoke free was one of the nicer things to happen to the bar scene.
So yeah, it was weird to come here and stand at the bar next to someone smoking. It still doesn't really bother me save for the fact that I seriously stink when I get home. It takes a couple of days for the smell to leave my apartment as well. I've had friends visit who currently smoke and they felt the same way. Smoking indoors was awkward to them. It was hilarious to see them go outside to smoke while they were here. Even though the bar was filled with smokers they preferred to go outdoors to do it. That's most telling.
I've seen some rumblings in the St. Louis Dispatch of smoking bans in the County and there are those in the City calling for bans as well. The only advice I can give is don't knock it till you try it. Also, be careful of only doing it in some areas. All it does it drive the smokers out to the areas that allow it. I don't know for fact but I bet that has happened to bars on the Illinois side of the river. I look forward to the day St Louis goes smoke-free. It's worth it whether you smoke or not. Just ask a Chicagoan or two. Or three. Well, I guess not everyone would agree.
Update: I had the final draft of this post ready to go this morning when this popped in my RSS feed. Coincidence? Yup.