When Paul Knauls booked his stay at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Wash., he asked for a nonsmoking room. Knauls, the owner of Geneva's Shear Perfection salon and barbershop in Portland, is allergic to cigarette smoke and finds it difficult to breathe freely in smoky places.
But when he arrived in his room, his eyes started to water. "I said honey, this is not a nonsmoking room. So I got on the phone and called down to reception. I asked for another room, but she said 'I'm sorry sir, but we're all sold out for this weekend.'
The room was nonsmoking, Knauls said, but because it was above the casino, where smoking is allowed, some fumes and the smell of tobacco could creep into the room.
Knauls said he went to a concert and by the time he returned, three hours later, the clothes he had left in the room smelled of cigarettes.
"Next time I'm going to ask for the top floor," Knauls says laughing. "Maybe it doesn't get all the way up there."
Knauls predicament is one that many nonsmokers will recognize. Love the entertainment; hate the cigarette smoke. But from January 2009, smoking will be banned – not just in Oregon's casinos, but also in restaurants, bars and bowling alleys. Even when smokers leave the building, they must be10 feet away from doorways, windows and air vents before lighting up.
The legislature passed the smokefree workplace law to protect employees from the dangers of second-hand smoke, estimated to cause more than 800 deaths a year in the state. It also will ban smoking in employee break rooms and 75 percent of hotel rooms.
When it comes to smoking African Americans are among the most vulnerable groups. More African Americans smoke at younger ages, and those who don't smoke are more likely to live with smokers.
Yugen Fardan Rashad, a longtime community activist and KBOO radio host, is spearheading tobacco prevention efforts aimed at African Americans in Portland. Based at Lifeworks Northwest, a nonprofit that offers help with mental health problems and addictions, he represents the state-funded Oregon Tobacco Prevention and Education Program.
"Everyone knows that tobacco has harmful effects," Rashad said. "The surgeon general has just declared that second hand smoke causes lung infections, cancer, low weight births, ear infections and even asthma. He's declared second hand smoke a culprit in all the tobacco diseases."
"People really have to look at their habits and how it's affecting their health," Rashad said.
Smokers can get help stubbing out their habit by calling the Oregon Tobacco Quitline. Once a smoker has established a quit date, a case worker will open a file, make referrals, and even provide nicotine replacement therapy."
The Tobacco Quit Line number is 1-800-7848-669.
Topping Rashad's current "to do" list is a program designed to encourage employers to go smoke-free before the law comes into effect next January.
"By law everyone is going to have to do this anyway," Rashad said. So what we want to do is to help business owners make this transition and bring their customers along incrementally, because unless they do, you know when the law comes into effect next year there will be violations and tickets written. We're trying to encourage businesses to make the shift now so that doesn't happen."
More than 90 percent of Oregonians say they prefer smoke free workplaces, and that includes 76 percent of smokers, the flyers note. More than 80 percent of Oregonians already are nonsmoking. Going smoke free will improve your health and that of your employees. Your insurance company may lower your premiums. And you won't lose carpets and furnishing to those pesky little cigarette burns.
However many bar and club owners, worry about the 20 percent of smoking Oregonians whose business they stand to lose.
"A lot of my clients come to my establishment to smoke and if they can't smoke here they will not come here, and they will go somewhere else where they can smoke," said Clyde Jenkins, owner of the Clyde's Prime Rib Restaurant and Bar on Northeast Sandy Boulevard at 55th in Portland.
"There also will be some people who will come here because it is nonsmoking," he said. "Now whether or not that will be a net add or a net minus I don't know. But it really won't matter because come January everybody will be nonsmoking and the people who smoke will have to make decisions about whether to go out at all."
Jenkins, who has never smoked, said he has not decided when to make the switch.
"My restaurant is nonsmoking, but I have a full-sized bar and I have video poker," Jenkins said, "When people drink and gamble and listen to music, a lot of them enjoy a cigarette as well – even cigars – I get everything."
Across the nation, and the world, cities, states and countries have adopted smoking bans. But Jenkins said Oregon may be unique in having video poker in its bars. "It will be interesting to see how it affects that piece of the business," he said. "A lot of my customers play video poker and a good number of them are smoking while they're playing."
Marco Shaw who owns the restaurant Fife on Northeast Fremont at 45th said going smoking was never on his menu.
"The whole project is green," he said. "Having smoking on the premises would interfere with this idea of trying to be sustainable and green, so it was a pretty easy decision for me."
Shaw said he thought people soon would get used to the change. "I don't think people are going to be that put off by it," he said. "You know they can't do it at work, you can't do it in the airport, they can't do it in hospital, … You can't do it in retail stores. I think people are used to it.
Paul Knauls, who owned one of Portland's landmark jazz clubs, the Cotton Club in the 60s, said he understood why switching before next January might be difficult. "That's going to be a tough call," he said.