Jun 15, 2011

[Philippines] No More Smoking at Starbucks

As based on notices posted at branches nationwide, Starbucks Philippines has announced that all of their branches will become smoke-free starting June 27. This is in support of the recent MMDA push to enforce RA 9211 by banning smoking in areas like schools, hospitals and all major and secondary roads including bus terminals and waiting sheds.

Flickr: Doun Dounell - Untitled
by Doun Dounell via Flickr.

Naturally the announcement has been received with mixed reactions by the smokers and non-smokers everywhere, with the usual cries of outrage and how this will be the "end of Starbucks".

First of all, I'd like to praise Starbucks Philippines for taking a corporate stand on this health concern. Yes, the outside seating of the stores are not officially part of the coverage of RA 9211 or the MMDA campaign. But as a private company, Starbucks Philippines is free to determine how their stores should operate and what is and is not allowed, including smoking.

Unlit filtered cigarettesImage via WikipediaSecond, I think smokers overestimate their importance to Starbucks' bottom line. Your average smoker will order one drink and then will stay outside for an indeterminate period of time. The length of time said person will stay increases if he has company. Especially large groups of smokers typically include non-smokers who sit with them for purposes of conversation and of course non-customers who just sit with them since they're part of the group and don't drink coffee. These extra seat warmers may or may not be smokers - its just a consequence of human social dynamics. Thus you have Starbucks losing all these seats who drink coffee as an afterthought and don't necessarily celebrate the drink as Starbucks theoretically wants them too.

By supporting the no-smoking campaign, they'll open up their outside seats to non-smokers who want to enjoy being outside thus better utilizing their available seats versus before. True coffee fans who also smoke will still possibly pass by a Starbucks and order their drinks to go and consume them at their leisure at a non-smoking location. If you're really big on coffee (and not just looking for a smoking area that's convenient), then I'm sure the people who go for Starbucks are the same ones who don't necessarily appreciate the differences in flavor when compared to other specialty coffee shops.

As for the people who will be most affected by this policy change, it'll mean them looking for alternative smoking tambayan (hang-out) instead of wasting Starbucks' time and giving their crew a lot more to clean up in terms of cigarette ash.

Three, it'll help set Starbucks apart. Talk about a strong branding campaign. Would you rather go to a coffee shop that just focuses on celebrating coffee or do you want a store with a cloud of cigarette smoke in front of every store?

Four, it really is healthier, and if the MMDA push triggers more actions like this, expect local governments to jump on the bandwagon and pass more ordinances regulating where you can and cannot smoke within their areas of jurisdiction. In the US smoking in public locations is a lot more regulated than it is here. I expect this trend to continue as we become more and more focused on preserving public health and discouraging people from smoking instead of celebrating it all the time.

This year I promised myself that I would not pay for any specialty coffee as part of an effort to save money, enjoy home-brewed coffee more and avoid the smoking areas associate with the stores. While I'm not about to totally go against this promise to myself, at the very least the occasional trip to Starbucks might not seem as bad once the new policy is in effect.

The Geeky Guide supports you, Starbucks Philippines! Don't give in to perceived public pressure to keep those smoking areas and make a firm stand! That's real social responsibility and one should never turn your back on that kind of a noble initiative.
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