Smoking in the Studio

Let me preface this article by stating that I smoked a pack a day for years. I am currently a non-smoker. I can see both sides of the smoking issue and I’m not a preacher against smoking or freedom of choice. But, I’ll admit that my view on some things have changed since going from smoker to non-smoker. I have become much more aware of just how far cigarette smoke can travel, and how deeply it permeates everything it comes in contact with. I’ve also noticed that cigarette smoke, by itself, can be the difference between something being clean or dirty. That being said, I’d like to discuss the issue of smoking inside tattoo studios.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
One comment that is often overheard about tattoo studios is when a client is pleasantly surprised at how clean it is. Many people are amazed to discover that modern tattoo studios are not the dark, dirty, seedy parlors of long ago. Some studios have even been compared to doctor’s offices. Now, how would you feel if you walked into your doctor’s office, only to be greeted by a cloud of smoke and yellow-stained walls?

Cleanliness and sterility are the pride of many artists today. Their strict adherence to health codes and meticulously autoclaving, sterilizing, bagging and properly disposing of everything they use is testimony to that fact. But then, does it nullify all of those efforts if cigarette smoke is wafting over a sterile work area?

Designated Smoking Area
Some will argue that smoking is acceptable as long as it is done in a designated area away from the artist’s workspace, like a back room or waiting room. A couple of years ago, I would have agreed. When I quit smoking, I decided to clean the house walls and surfaces, which revealed dingy, yellow stains even in rooms where a cigarette had never been smoked. Every wall in the house was stained, proving that cigarette smoke has an ability to travel much farther than most of us realize. If you think a smoking area keeps cigarette smoke away from your tattoo artist’s sterile workspace, think again.

We won’t get into the debate of how second-hand smoke can affect your health, as that is an entirely separate issue. But what about a tattoo? Take a look at this list of nearly 600 additives found in cigarettes. What is the point of carefully guarding this open wound from cross-contamination and blood-born pathogens, only to expose it to over 4,000 chemical toxins?

A Higher Standard
Today, tattoo studios and artists are held to a higher standard of quality. This includes the quality of cleanliness as well as quality of art and customer service. Does allowing smoking in the studio coincide with this higher standard? Some artists say yes, because their customers who smoke are more at ease where smoking is permitted. This is very likely, since getting a tattoo and anxiety go hand in hand, and smoking can help to ease that anxiety. But then again, so does smoking a joint or having a shot of whiskey, so why not allow that, too? Where do we draw the line?

Everything has its time and place, including smoking. I think everyone should have the right to smoke or not, and I think laws that go as far as banning smoking from bars and clubs cross the line of reasonability. I don’t have a problem with well-ventilated restaurants having a smoking area. But in a place that demands a clean and sterile environment, where open wounds are exposed and every other aspect of hygienic control is observed, there is no place for smoking.

What Studio Owners Can Do
A designated smoking area outside the building can still provide customers with a way to relax with a cigarette, if they so desire. Add a bench and an ashtray to make it an inviting area for them to sit and visit with others. Cover it with an awning for protection against bad weather. Just keep it away from the door so smoke doesn’t invite itself inside.

If you feel there is an absolute need for an indoor smoking area, at least invest in an air purifier of some kind. You can spray all the air fresheners you want to mask the smell, but that only adds more chemicals to the already toxic air.

Many smokers are getting used to having their freedoms curbed somewhat, and are probably not going to complain about stricter rules when it is for their own health and safety. If they do, they always have the option to go somewhere else. A customer that doesn’t care enough about their own safety to insist on a sterile environment isn’t the kind of customer most of us want anyway.

From a Smoker

“I vote no, and I’m a smoker. I don’t, or try very hard not to, smoke in confined spaces which other people at close range, because it’s impolite (and damn rude!) to force other people to inhale toxic chemicals. If they wanted to they’d start smoking themselves. If people want to smoke, there is plenty of space outside.” (JEMSYBABY)

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