Sex & Love

Will the Tel Aviv Smoking Ban Affect My Sex Life?

I staggered home this morning from my local pub on Bograshov Street red eyed, wheezing and smelling like my seventy year-old chain smoking travel agent, Shoshana. The thing is, I don’t even smoke. I am getting tired of having to … Read More

By / November 13, 2009


I staggered home this morning from my local pub on Bograshov Street red eyed, wheezing and smelling like my seventy year-old chain smoking travel agent, Shoshana. The thing is, I don’t even smoke. I am getting tired of having to toss my T-shirts in the wash after having barely worn them because they reek of secondhand smoke. Under normal circumstances I could get at least another 48 hours out of them. The problem is that I think I’m becoming dependent on secondhand smoke. It’s gotten to the point that sometimes I start itching in anticipation of someone lighting up.

When the public smoking ban began to be enforced last year by the City Council, I was excited at the prospect of being able to spend a night on the town without having to worry about nicotine poisoning, but that ship sunk pretty much as soon as it sailed and I am unaware of a single smoke-free bar in Tel Aviv. If you know one, please let me know. A cigarette is usually lit post- coitus, but only in Tel Aviv does the smoking precede the sex.

Legislators in Israel passed the smoking ban as a means to reduce health risks and thereby the ever-increasing costs of health care. The success of reducing health risks through public smoking bans in other countries speak for themselves. The number of heart attacks in Ireland has fallen by about 11 percent since the smoking ban was introduced there in 2004, according to Irish researchers at a cardiology congress in Vienna. Similar results have followed in other places too. Scotland, for instance, had a 17 percent decrease in heart attacks. Pueblo, Colorado confirmed that heart attacks fell by almost 27 percent since its public smoking ban.

This got me thinking about why, in spite of the health risks, bar owners are so opposed to upholding the smoking ban. Obviously they must be taking their customers’ best interests into account. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to request that customers smoke outside. I know it’s not the harsh Mediterranean winter that’s keeping them indoors. Scantily clad female smokers brave the rain, sleet and snow for a quick cigarette all over Europe without affecting the livelihood of bar owners. But having to brave the cold for a smoke doesn’t seem to be the reason. There must be something else at work here. In Israel, where the anti-smoking lobby is comparatively weak compared with Western countries, smoking’s sexy appeal still trumps its resulting shorter lifespan.

A cigarette on-hand isn’t going to transform you into a dashing Humphrey Bogart or a stylish Marilyn Monroe, but its importance in restraining awkward hand gestures when you are in the process of courting a member of the fairer sex should not be overlooked. I usually rectify this problem by downing a couple shots of liquid confidence, putting out the vibes and leaning nonchalantly on the bar.

One bartender friend of mine argues that a belligerent anti-smoking campaign will stop smokers from going out and will inevitably diminish the sex lives of all single people. "Most of my regulars are smokers and more importantly are single," he tells me. "If I start adhering to the smoking ban, they will find somewhere else to go for a pick up and eventually I will have to close down." Images of signs across Tel Aviv bars reading "bar closed- if you want to get laid use Facebook" or alternatively "out of business and so are you" come to mind.

Tel Aviv singles’ greatest fear is that with a smaller turnout at the local watering holes, we will have to resort to the sad practices of blind dates and JDate. I think we can all agree that nobody wants that. But with the possibility of the pubs going out of business one issue that needs to be addressed is where all these single people will meet.

The police, for some reason, seem rather preoccupied to enforce the law, or they are simply picking and choosing which laws to uphold. Israel has some of the most far reaching and democratic legislation amongst Western countries but always falls short when it comes to enactment. So where does this leave me? Am I supposed to boycott pretty much every bar in Tel Aviv and henceforth live a life similar to that of a Franciscan monk or do I bite the bullet? This way I can at least kiss goodbye the looks of putrid loathing when I complain about second-hand smoke at my favorite bar and simultaneously get back at the people who cause me to cough up phlegm every morning by giving them a taste of their own medicine.

Another positive spin is smoking’s surprising health benefits. With obesity identified as the number one killer amongst Americans, smoking (along with bulimia, speed and cocaine binges) has been proven to be one of the most effective weight-loss methods.

I tried not going out to smoky bars for a while but realistically I could no longer stand idly by and let longevity be an obstacle to my sex life. My life, although remarkably shortened, will be filled with splendor and debauchery. If any of you wish to search me out, I’ll be sitting at the back of the smoke-filled bar tonight pale faced and sickly with a grin of satisfaction assured that maybe I can still get lucky.