Of all the benefits strip clubs afford to their customers, clean air is never one of them. I’ve been to the most upscale gentlemen’s clubs on Bourbon and some of the worst dive clubs in the city, and one trait they all share is a smoke-filled atmosphere. Smoking has been banned in public places around the country and was banned in Louisiana restaurants under the Louisiana Smoke-Free Air Act. There’s a big push, at least locally, to ban smoking in bars and casinos as well. Two years ago, the Louisiana State Senate’s Health & Welfare Committee approved a bill that would ban smoking in both bars and casinos. The bill was then shot down by a 15-22 vote by the Senate. A new bill, which was approved by the Senate Health & Welfare Committee, would ban smoking in bars but not casinos. That bill also failed.
The tide is beginning to turn. A national poll by Gallup concluded that the majority of U.S. citizens support smoking bans in all public places. I have spoken to numerous people who hate going out to smoky bars. They hate coming home smelling like an ashtray. Seriously – smell your clothes after a night at the strip club. That’s what you’re breathing.
The smoking ban in restaurants was met with a lot of resistance at first, but the overwhelming majority of people now approve of these bans. Some bars are more progressive than others and choose to ban smoking, but most haven’t due to a fear of losing customers. I understand that. However, most strip clubs have outdoor patios or balconies where smokers can go outside and smoke; it’s not like they’d have to leave the club entirely. It would be a good excuse to go outside and get some fresh air.
Here are three reasons why strip clubs should ban smoking inside the building:
1.) Most of the customers do NOT smoke. Yet everyone suffers the consequences of breathing polluted air and smelling like a cigar factory. Everything in the club absorbs smoke – the chairs, the furniture, the carpets, the drapes, the tables, and even the paint on the walls. It only takes one customer puffing away like a chimney to make the entire club reek. And it’s damn near impossible to filter/purify/circulate the air well enough to make a difference.
Here are the numbers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 19.3% of U.S. adults are current smokers. The percentage of adult smokers has been trending downward since the 1990s. Think about that – over 80% of adults are nonsmokers, and that number is likely to increase in the coming years.
But what about strip club customers? How many of them smoke? Unfortunately, the data isn’t that comprehensive. But here are some stats to ponder:
- 29% of adults below the poverty line are smokers, as opposed to 18% at or above the poverty line (NHIS, 2010)
- 9.9% of adults with a degree from a four-year college/university are smokers; nearly 24% of those with only a high school diploma are smokers (NHIS, 2010)
- Over 30% of those making less than $24,000 per year are smokers; only 13% of those making $90,000 per year or more are smokers (Gallup survey, 2008)
- 53% of all U.S. adult smokers earn less than $36,000 per year; 75% earn less than $60,000 per year (Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, 2009)
- More unemployed adults smoke (40%) than those working full-time or part-time (25% and 24%, respectively) ~ 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health
These stats confirm the income disparity between smokers and nonsmokers. A disproportionate number of smokers are low-income and uneducated. I’m not sure strip clubs would lose many customers if they instituted smoking bans, but if they did, they likely wouldn’t lose many big-spending customers. They would, however, make the other customers very appreciative – and chances are those appreciative customers have more money to spend than the smokers.
2.) It’s bad for the long-term health of customers and employees. This should go without saying, but there are plenty of stats to support this. Exposure to the toxins in second-hand smoke can cause asthma, cancer, heart disease, and other health problems. Anyone skeptical of the effects of second-hand smoke can view the Surgeon General’s report on involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke. It’s really not up for debate at this point.
Mayo Clinic’s website even says, “The dangerous particles in secondhand smoke can linger in the air for hours or even longer. It isn’t just the smoke that’s a concern, though. The residue that clings to a smoker’s hair and clothing, as well as cushions, carpeting and other goods — sometimes referred to as thirdhand smoke — also can pose risks, especially for children.”
I understand that no one is forced to visit strip clubs, and that if someone wants to avoid the potential consequences of second-hand smoke they could choose to stay home. But why would a strip club choose to put everyone in the building in harm’s way just so a few customers can light up a cigarette? That just seems irresponsible. I like going to strip clubs, but I also like my health. I’d really like to be able to continue going to strip clubs without risking my health, as would the majority of customers. As for the employees – I understand they chose to work there, but there’s no reason they shouldn’t enjoy the same workplace protection laws as those of restaurants and other industries.
3.) Customers should spend money on the entertainers, not cigarettes. Most strip clubs sell cigarettes. Some have cigarette vending machines and others sell them at the front desk or at the bar. I’m not sure how many customers bring their own cigarettes or how many buy them at the club. Somebody buys them because every club sells them. I’m sure the dancers buy a lot of cigarettes, since a lot of dancers smoke. Point is – when customers spend money on cigarettes, it takes money away from the dancers. Why would you want customers to give their money to tobacco companies rather than your employees? That makes no business sense.
This is not meant to be an anti-smoking crusade and I’m not advocating a national ban on tobacco products. I realize smoking is a choice and I would never tell someone how to live their life. I have an unhealthy diet and that is my choice. I understand the risks involved and stand by my decision. I appreciate when people respect the decisions I make, and I will give that same respect to smokers. My intention is not to offend or alienate smokers – just to make the club smell a little nicer.
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that any strip club will voluntarily ban smoking. Restaurants wouldn’t do it and bars won’t either. The state will have to force the bars to ban smoking. Would I support a state-wide ban on smoking in bars? I generally don’t support the government telling business owners what they can and can’t do. I think bar owners should have the choice of making their bar nonsmoking, but not be coerced into doing it. Notice I said “generally”, though. The government tells businesses they can’t dump their pollutants in the river, and I support that.