A bar in Barcelona, somewhere off the main drag, hidden in an alleyway. In the US, it’d be a dive, but here it’s a local watering hole with all that Spanish verve that makes the American travel comment on how communal things are in Europe. The sangria is fantastic, the tapas plentiful and divine. And we leave almost immediately, polishing off our first and only drink as quickly as possible. It’s not that it’s too hot because there’s a breeze through the open doorways; it’s not that the prices are too high because a large glass is only a couple of Euros; and it’s certainly not that the server isn’t attractive enough because she’s maddeningly beautiful. Instead, it’s that there is a cloud of smoke hanging over everything. It’s the classic dark bar look: hazy atmosphere, hoarse voices.
I don’t smoke. I never have and, barring some strange change in my personality, never will. And so I’m cheered by the discussion going on amongst the brass of the club to ban cigarettes at the Camp Nou. Naturally enough, I have no idea how many of you have personal stake in this particular topic, but I come from a culture that is not against banning smoking. I live in New York City, which was one of the first cities in the country to ban smoking in bars and a place that is supposedly considering banning smoking in all public places. When I visit other states and countries, I’m often wowed by how many people smoke and in Spain, where I have traveled briefly, avoiding the chimneys was almost a sport.
Forgive me if I’m generalizing a little too much here, but smoking is important in Spain, though perhaps not as much as in other places. This discussion about banning it in the stadium, then, is a step in a different direction. But is it the right direction?
My justification for all smoking bans—indeed, for expanding specific smoking bans to the aforementioned public-wide idea—is that smoking is not a solitary pursuit. If you and I are sitting on a bus next to each other and you light up, I am, by no choice of my own, smoking a cigarette. I am not into the idea that one should be banned from doing things that are harmful to one’s own health, but instead that bans should protect those not engaging in that activity.
Another thing: I drink. I love beer, especially, and I would be peeved beyond belief if it were banned. If there’s a slippery slope argument to be made here, it’s that a smoking ban would precipitate an alcohol ban, especially if cigarettes are outlawed because of a desire to make the Camp Nou more “family friendly”. The drunk guy in Row X is probably often more annoying than the guy smoking quietly behind him in Row Y. And Dani Alves’ crosses often hit the mother complaining about the drunken lout because she’s in Row Z with her kids. That’s an argument I can understand, but the drunk guy is not intoxicating the children, just annoying them. And if he gets too out of line, he should be removed from the stadium, which I’m sure happens already, though perhaps its personal priorities that cause me to put on blinders and think that banning alcohol would be unacceptable. The difference—or maybe just the way I justify it—is that ingesting alcohol is a singular act: when I drink, no one else has to drink. When I smoke, everyone around me has to smoke. That my behavior may change when I’m drinking is something else entirely, or at least I believe it to be.
For those of you preferring up the argument that the stadium’s atmosphere will change (and also noise levels and cheering–har har) and thus smoking shouldn’t be banned–England, that bastion of the chanting fan, has banned smoking for years and their stadiums appear to have remained unchanged. Except for less stinky clothing. Histrionics about personal rights have little go on either, I don’t think, given that the Camp Nou is not actually a public place, but rather a privately owned business that can enact smoking bans if it chooses. Even the libertarians have to admit that.
All of this is going to go before the club’s Assembly anyway (which is interesting, given what is not going before the Assembly, but that’s a discussion for a different day), so have your say in the comments. To be clear: I am for a total smoking ban in the Camp Nou, but I do not necessarily speak for the rest of the BFB crew. Sorry to those of you who enjoy the sticky icky up with the gods, but that has to go the way of the dodo just like the non-wacky tabacky. Now if they try to do away with chocolate before previews…I will revolt.