About Town

2006 Revisited: Thoughts on Smokefree Clubs

By Staff

Editor’s note: While browsing through old issues of CATALYST, we came upon this “About Town” piece from March of 2006. Staff millennials, foreign to the days of smokey bars, restaurants and airplanes (and movie theatres, recollected if you’re really old), were amazed. Now, when one smoker standing outside can be smelled half a block away, it’s hard to fathom being in a room where half the people are holding cigarettes.

   How did this change come about? People spoke up. Legislators listened. Science and common sense prevailed.

   “People really can make a difference!” said Jane (age 11 when this story was first printed), happy to see this affirming evidence.

   It’s nice to be reminded.



In driving by the billboards that read “80% of Utahns want smoke-free clubs,” I celebrate this rare occasion upon which I agree with 80% of Utahns.

Senate Bill 19, sponsored by Michael Waddoups, proposes to amend to the Utah Clean Air Act. If it passes, Utah will join the exclusive ranks of New York and California in having smoke­-free bars and restaurants. Smoking in clubs may soon seem as foreign as the cigarette dispensers that used to cozy up next to all the soda machines, or the smoking sections on airplanes or restaurants.

While many have argued that the ban could have a detrimental effect on the down­town nightlife, it could, in fact, draw more people out to hear music or get a few drinks. A visit to a club with even one person smok­ing (okay, they’re probably chain smoking) can mean a shower and hair wash before bed and remember to leave your coat out­side overnight so you can wear it the next day without smelling like a bar.

The ban might even draw in more music and dancing. Local musician and violin maker Dan Salini, who values the many benefits of breathing, echoed the sentiments of other musician friends when he said he’d happily take more gigs to play downtown if he didn’t have to play in smoking venues.

For me, the real benefit of the amendment is for these musicians, the servers, bar­tenders and bussers who have had to breathe in eight hours of secondhand smoke as an occupational hazard. Having tended bar in a place so smoky it was refreshing to step outside for a breath of fresh air in even the worst of inversions, I’m delighted to know that those who choose not to smoke won’t have to do so as part of their workday. For those who do choose to smoke, they can continue in a way that doesn’t impose the ill effects on others. And, as a side effect, New Yorkers and Californians might finally feel more at home in Utah.

Carl Rabke is a Salt Lake City Feldenkrais practitioner and tai chi instructor who still occasionally writes for CATALYST.

This article was originally published on February 27, 2018.