Smoke and Mirrors: Battle of the Pointless Chicago Tobacco Lounge Stories

nosmoking.jpgHey, did you read about that "Tobacco Lounge" that opened in Chicago? Huh? It was on the third page of the Post today. Oh, and, uh, on the front page of the New York Times two months back. We read both pieces, and, forthwith, our exclusive head-to-head comparative competition deathmatch analysis:


Soft Lede

Times:

"The room is lined with vintage ashtrays, delicate lighters, matches and pens shaped like cigarettes. The scent, naturally, is of smoke."

Post:

"Glasses clink, friends chat in plush chairs and a fire crackles in a stone hearth at Marshall McGearty Tobacco Artisans, a 'tobacco lounge' that has opened in Chicago's trendy Wicker Park neighborhood."

Advantage: Times. The Post gets to the point a little quicker, but manages two cliches ("glasses clink," "fire crackles" -- at least the smoke wasn't "curling upwards") in 11 words.

The rest of the dogfight, after the jump.

Quotes From Critics

Times:

"'It's trying to get an 18-to-25 demographic here, to make smoking seem desirable, attractive, like a secret club,' said Bronson Frick, associate director for Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, a group based in Berkeley, Calif."

Post:

"'It's just another example of tobacco companies skirting the law,' said Kevin Tynan, marketing director for the American Lung Association of Metropolitan Chicago."

Advantage: Post. They managed to find a Chicago-based critic, which makes his opinion slightly more applicable, even if his name isn't anywhere near as awesome as "Bronson Frick."

Flack Quote

Times:

"The timing, Brian Stebbins, a senior marketing director at R. J. Reynolds, said, was purely coincidental. And the shop, he insists, does not fall under the city's new ban since it fits the exempt category of a 'tobacco retail store,' even though it also sells alcoholic drinks, cheese plates and espresso drinks."

Post:

"'This has nothing to do with the smoking ban,'" said RJR Senior Marketing Director Brian Stebbins, noting that the company opposes the smoking ban.

Advantage: Even. The classic "follow quote with dry comment on almost-contradiction" formulation isn't pulled off all that gracefully by either party here.

The Cigarettes

Times:

"Here, under glass, are thick jars of tobacco -- Oriental Rose, The Empress, The Earl -- poured lovingly into white smoking papers by tobacco's answer to the coffee shop barista.

[...]

That was just the image the creators of Marshall McGearty might have had in mind two years ago, when they began dreaming up the mixes of leaves (nine types described in a glossy lounge guide, a menu for cigarettes, in three categories, 'light and smooth,' 'mellow and flavorful,' or 'rich and full-bodied') and, of course, dreaming up ways to market such an idea."

Post

"The cigarettes at Marshall McGearty, with names such as Aegeans, Muse and the Earl, are displayed in ornate boxes with descriptions that sound more like fine wines. Oriental Rose promises 'smoke that is creamy, sweet and delicate, highlighted by floral notes.'"

Advantage: Post. They quote the funnier description.

Predictions of Failure

Times:

"But Richard A. Daynard, a law professor at Northeastern University and president of the Tobacco Control Resource Center, said he was not bothered by the lounge, mostly because he believes the idea will not work.

'It's a gimmick,' he said. 'I certainly would be surprised if it's still in business five years from now. The problem is that their clientele is not this, but mainly working class and poor people.'"

Post:

"'I'd expect this business model to flop,' Tegen said. 'People in Chicago are excited about the smoke-free law. And many smokers I know in Chicago don't mind stepping outside for five minutes to smoke. I don't see them as a trend that will continue.'"

Advantage: Times. Smoking is for poor people, what! Awww, shit, ya hear that? Also: No one wants to step outside for anything in Chicago between the months of November and March.

TIE BREAKER:

Headline

Times:

'As Smoke Clears, Tobacco Maker Opens Lounge'

Post

'Tobacco Lounge Blows Smoke in The Face of Chicago's New Ban'

Advantage: Times by a nose. Both repurposed smoke-related expressions are a total reach, but the Times hed is just a touch more elegant, getting the stupid joke out of the way rather quickly and painlessly. The Post, meanwhile, looks like they were deciding between that and "The Smoke Gets in the Eyes of Chicago's New Ban" or "You Aren't Allowed to Smoke 'Em if You Got 'Em In Chicago Anymore, Except At this One Place."

Winner: The New York Times. David Broder won't be happy to hear it, but them's the breaks.

As Smoke Clears, Tobacco Maker Opens Lounge [NYT]

Tobacco Lounge Blows Smoke in the Face of Chicago's New Ban [WP]

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