Brinley Hineman
Nashville Tennessean

Published 11:00 PM EDT Jun 9, 2020

As music venues begin to reopen across Nashville amid the coronavirus pandemic, health leaders are pushing for bars and other venues to become smoke-free.

During a webinar Tuesday sponsored by Mayor John Cooper’s office, health leaders and a musician spoke out against the dangers of smoking and vaping, which have been compounded by the coronavirus as it attacks the respiratory system of its victims.

“The time has come to extinguish all indoor smoking,” said Nashville’s health director Dr. Michael Caldwell. “We cannot fight (COVID-19) effectively if we continue to let indoor and outdoor environments be polluted.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking tobacco is linked to more than 480,000 deaths in the United States each year. More than 41,000 people die annually because of secondhand smoke exposure. 

Jamie Kent, a country music artist and a member of Musicians for a Smoke-Free Nashville, spoke about problems he’s faced as a musician playing in smoky establishments since he has asthma. He’s also spent his career as a server and bartender where it’s not uncommon to work in a venue that allows smoking.

Kent celebrated Nashville establishments that have already become smoke-free, such as the Bluebird Cafe. 

In Tennessee, it’s illegal to smoke in restaurants, hotels, malls and other establishments. Venues that restrict access to people under 21 years old, such as bars, can allow smoking under state law. 

“The standard for this industry really has become smoke-free,” Kent said. “As Music City, I believe it is imperative that Nashville takes this chance to move forward and become smoke-free.” 

Reach Brinley Hineman at [email protected] and on Twitter @brinleyhineman.