It’s one month, pretty much, since a sea change occurred in the way we experience live music in the UK. The banning of smoking in public places and a variety of places of work has led to music venues cleaning up their acts, quite literally. No longer are we squinting at an indie-rock four-piece in some basement somewhere through a think fog of caustic smoke. No longer are we walking out with the smell of another man’s habit on our shirts. No longer are we running such a high risk of developing a life-threatening illness just by enjoying our favourite bands in a live environment. For all the pluses, though, we can now smell the bogs...
But, a month on, what’s the feeling amongst the gig-going public? From a non-smoker’s perspective – hello, I am a non-smoker – the change has been brilliant. I can now, should I wish to look like a tramp, wear the same grotty band tee out and about the night after sporting it at some dive of an indie disco. It’ll be sweaty, sure, but at least it doesn’t smell like cigarette butts. The need for individuals to go outside to smoke, too, hasn’t been too much of an issue: most of my friends are non-smokers.
However, there is a degree of disgruntlement within the live-music-loving ranks. London’s Koko’s decision to permit smokers only seven minutes to have a cigarette before they will not be re-admitted to the venue, and its policy of fingerprinting smokers on their way in and out, has led to criticism. “Unnecessarily draconian” is how website Londonist.com summarised the system, with one reader commenting:
“I'm disgusted that a club can think it's a good idea to do this. Koko really are pushing smoker's buttons here. I've accepted the ban, even as a smoker. But I refuse to go anywhere where I'm told how long I can stand outside for. Smoking outside is not a crime, and no one is taking my finger prints! I love Koko, I think it's great there, but until this policy changes, I'll keep my nasty yellow stained fingers to myself and putting my beer money into someone else’s pockets.”
Having to go outside for a cigarette is nothing new to gig-goers who’ve travelled a little – in New York, for example, smoking within live music venues has not been permitted for some time, and the streets are regularly clogged with addicts needing their mid-set fix. But the shock of the instant ‘from this day forth’ policing of the UK’s ban has quite obviously ruffled feathers, with certain people going so far as to suggest the ban will effectively ruin the live music industry, enjoying something of an upwards trajectory over these past few years. A user of Yahoo Answers asks: “Do you think the smoking ban is killing the music industry?”, leading to a variety of responses…
“Extraction fans and a separate partitioned area for non smokers. That’s what is considered normal in other countries. Everyone is happy.”
“No way. And even if the music industry is suffering, that's just the price we are going to have to pay to keep smokers out of public places! Obviously cigarettes are more important to them than good music!”
“All the non-smoking do-gooders in this world wanted the ban... they got it, now they are whingeing about the smell of the toilets, the empty pubs. Young musicians trying to get a break now have diminished audiences. Some people are only happy when they have something to moan about.”
So, DiS wants to know what your opinion is. Are you a smoker whose enjoyment of live music has suffered because of your need for a cigarette every half-hour? Has the ban helped you quit? If you’re a non-smoker, have you noticed a significant difference in the atmosphere of recent live shows? Can you breathe more easily, as it were?