A few years ago, in 2006, the Nevada legislature imposed a public smoking ban.
The new rule doesn't apply - as yet - to the storied casinos of Las Vegas, where smoking is still allowed on gaming floors. And of course Nevada is hardly the only recent state to impose restrictions on public smoking. Indeed, it joins over thirty states (at this writing) with such laws on the books. If you are reading this from the United States, it is likely that a similar law applies to your area: half the country's population is currently under the jurisdiction of a public-smoking regulation of some kind.
But the idea of a smoking ban passing the Nevada legislature seems almost like a kind of spiritual defeat for cigar smokers: after all, what could more epitomize "cigar cool" than the mental image of Frank Sinatra's Rat Pack, cigars and drinks in hand, finger-popping their ways through the floor of a Vegas casino?
It just symbolizes a fact that's made passionate smokers' lives a little more difficult over the past decade: in the interest of public health (and out of consideration for asthmatics and others), more and more city councils and state legislatures are choosing to ban public smoking outright, or are limiting it to certain licensed facilities.
Arguments about the effectiveness or appropriateness of these bans to one side, we can all agree that they mean that smokers have to put a little more energy into planning vacations. For a person who loves the taste of a good cigar, for whom relaxation doesn't become meaningful until there's a stogie involved, there's no point in a vacation where you can't even smoke in your hotel room. With smoking bans underway in Atlantic City (and this ban extends to casinos) and similar one-time bastions of cigar culture, frustrated cigar smokers are turning to a new option: the cruise ship.
And why not? Cruise ship vacations offer the ultimate chance to "get away from it all," a continuous expanse of blue water, and the opportunity to meet interesting people from all over the country (and world). Few cruises are completely smoke-free, with most offering, at the very least, designated smoking areas that might include cigar bars or lounges. So it's hard to go completely wrong - wherever you book your passage, you'll almost always have at least some chance to smoke.
More and more luxury cruise lines don't allow smoking in living quarters - that's one downfall. After all, the next person using your room might be a nonsmoker, and it doesn't make economic sense for cruise ship directors to designate permanent "smoking" and "nonsmoking" rooms; such a move would involve logistical nightmares during booking. But luxury quarters often include balconies, where smoking is sometimes still allowed.
The recent case of a cruise line headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida gives smokers an indication of what they can expect. The cruise line, according to some reports, lost millions in bookings after instituting a partial smoking ban in 2007. But compared to those bans that have caused smokers such dismay in Atlantic City and Ottawa, the Florida-based cruise line's smoking ban doesn't even apply to the on-ship bars and casinos.
Indeed, the cruise ship industry seems to be following the opposite track of most US states and municipalities - as they grow more restrictive toward smoking, cruise lines are growing more permissive. One completely smoke-free cruise ship line went out of business awhile ago; another once-smokeless line changed its policies to allow some smoking on the boat.
Smokers will likely want to evaluate cruise line policies prior to booking as there are has examples of ships with almost smoke-free policies. Smoking on such lines may only be permitted in two designated areas - and if you light up anywhere else, you could be kicked off the boat! (That presumably doesn't mean you'll be forced to walk the plank, but it's probably not worth finding out.)
Another rule of thumb mentioned by several travel writers: if you're looking for company as you smoke, go for a cruise line with a high number of European and Asian clientele. Citizens of many of these countries often still smoke in higher numbers than do contemporary Americans, and there is a Spain-based cruise line that currently sports the least restrictive smoking policy out there.
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