Up in smoke...
With news that the government are set to clamp down on smoking on public places, Andy Buchan argues that bars and clubs should be included in the remit…
Imagine for a second I'm at your work, I'm sitting next to you at your desk.
I spill a drink down your top, and as I apologise, a little bit of spickle lands on your cheek as I propel my words out, battling with the background noise. I stumble around the office doing a discombobulated dance looking for the toilets before forgetting what I was doing and start hitting on your female boss. And finally, I light up a fag and start breathing noxious fumes all over you, fumes so claggy, so hard-to-shift that your pens, your stapler, your hair, your shirt, your XL documents reek of smoke. And then I stub said fag out against your jumper mid dance move, burning a hole through to your scarred arm, and wander off towards the dancefloor.
Well, that's a pretty ordinary day at the office for a DJ (albeit one in a club and not at your office). And largely, it's fine - you head into a club to have a drink, to have a chat, to have a dance, to forget about your day in the office. They're all choices, and most don't have a definite or lasting impact.
But smoking does, and increasingly it is becoming a choice around the world.
The UK brought in nonsmoking in bars and clubs 6 years ago, New York and Toronto long ago opted out, and while smoking has been outlawed in various areas of Dubai (public and municipality buildings), it's still to find its way into club land. And I for one can't wait for it to come.
Through various decisions, a lot of my life revolves around bars and clubs: from writing about them for DJ Magazine, Time Out and now Infusion, to DJing in clubs
a couple of times a month, I spend a lot of time in smokefilled, poorly ventilated clubs. And my laptop, headphones, CDs, hair and clothes reek of smoke, which means my lungs can only be gasping for fresh air.
Historically, shisha is a big part of the Middle East culture, and cigarettes are cheap, Dhs10 for a pack of 20. Plus, there’s no pesky state-wide health service like the NHS to poke its nose into your health or advertising restrictions: as long as you’re old enough, light ‘em up.
But as Dubai is blessed with beautiful weather for 8 months of the year, it makes sense to make the most of the great outdoors and move the smokers outside. Or clubs could actually spend some of their hard-earned dirhams on properly ventilating their indoor rooms - it wouldn't alleviate the problem entirely, but it would go a long way to helping beat second hand smoke. But we're talking industrial sized units, rather than a makeshift fan which has less huff than an asthmatic fish.
Clubs would then be smoke free, and the DTCM would have another revenue stream by handing out big fines to venues that contravene the rules (and maybe the proceeds could be put towards lung cancer charities?). And smokers would still be able to puff away, and even get a suntan/sauna in the process. Win win, right?
Having grown up in smokey pubs and clubs (not literally - my folks aren't bad people), I can see the advantages smoking brings. It lends atmosphere, it blurs the edges and adds depth to a room which otherwise might be too clean cut or stark. The smell also covers a multitude of stinks: having been back to the UK post-ban, I can confirm that venues now have an air of BO and farts, a truly devilish concoction. Some clubs have even had to pump in synthetic smells to cover up the stink. On top of that, some dancefloors have suffered as clubbers rush for a cigarette hit and desert the floor. And of course, let's not forget the decades of advertising: smoking is cool.
But fundamentally, clubbing is about choice - the right to choose your music, what you wear, who you go with, what you drink, when to stumble home. But you haven't chosen the right to breathe in someone else's second hand smoke, and be exposed to any number of far-reaching, life-threatening illnesses. And that's a choice we all should be able to make ourselves.