It's a safe bet that you're one of the more than eight out of every 10 adult Californians who do not smoke cigarettes. If that's so, perhaps you are also among those folks who used to take in a nightclub or a lounge after work or on weekend evenings every now and then. You went there to relax, meet friends and listen to a little live music. Perhaps those were the days when you weren't worried about secondhand smoke.
Maybe you grumbled a bit about having to wash everything you had worn the night before--or about having to head to the dry cleaners--just to remove the pervasive odor of cigarette smoke from your clothing. At most, you might have been annoyed at the stuffy nose or sore throat you had the next day.
These days, we happen to know quite a bit more about the ill effects of secondhand smoke. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for example, has declared secondhand smoke to be a "Group A" human carcinogen. That places it in the same category as asbestos and radon. So, you could be forgiven if those smoky nightspots have drifted farther and farther down your list of things to do on social evenings. After all, in Los Angeles and in the Valley, you breathe in enough foul air during the day. Why add to your risks during hours of nighttime enjoyment?
Well, if you miss the night life, the Van Nuys unit of the American Cancer Society is about to come to your social rescue. It is publishing a nonsmoker's yellow pages that will list nightclubs, jazz spots and other entertainment venues that have a smoke-free policy.
The purpose here is admirable, and twofold. It will encourage night spots to have a smoke-free night at least two nights per month, according to the Herm Perlmutter, associate director of the Society's San Fernando Valley unit. And it will also serve as a guide for those who want to enjoy live music and other events without having to worry about putting up with secondhand smoke.
It is true that an establishment that regularly allows smoking will still have some "lingering pollutants in the air," Perlmutter says, on those occasional nights when smoking is prohibited. He adds, however, that is still far preferable to enduring another night of active smoking.
Yes, Gov. Pete Wilson signed a bill last month that will ban smoking in nearly all enclosed places of employment, beginning Jan. 1. But there is a pernicious and ill-conceived voter initiative on the November ballot that could overturn the statewide ban, and local smoking bans around the state.
We hope the initiative fails, but, until then and regardless of the outcome, the nonsmoker's yellow pages will provide help to those who want to enjoy the night life without all that smoke.