Experience is the (Tobacco) Product

At parties, people will often take breaks from the loud music and the dancing to go to the smoking area to get that hit of nicotine. But it’s more than that. I believe that people smoke to have a change of environment, to take a break from the dark, crowded space inside to the better lit, less crowded space outside. The conversation topics and general behaviour are different. It’s not just about the nicotine, it’s about the whole experience that surrounds it. I believe that the conversations you have over cigarette and alcohol differ as much as the conversations you have over coffee and alcohol.

I generally prefer not smoking but it is different at parties. My most recent house party made me introspect about this. Sure, it was to get a little more buzzed for a bit, but it wasn’t just that. Since I’m not much of a dancer nor the most party-loving person, I was pretty tired after a few drinks. I also couldn’t take the music for any longer nor could I relate to what the small group that had formed was chatting about. I see some folks outside holding their rolled tobacco and decide to join them. The moment I step out, I realise that it is quite stuffy inside. I feel the fresh, cold air and let my eyes adjust to the bright lights. I feel relaxed as my ears are no longer bombarded with loud music. Instead, I hear laughter and see expressive faces. There are only a few people and I walk up to them to join their discussion. I feel more relaxed and comfortable here. And although I still have my beer, a smoke seems appropriate. Is it peer pressure? No, I came out here with this intention. While the discussion carries on, the intermittent puffs offer a break to think about the topic, to understand what is being said while the nicotine and alcohol do their thing. 

Different areas at a party- main area and smoking area
People at Parties

And so, I realise that this isn’t the only party place with a smoking area that has a different ambience, differs architecturally and offers opportunities for conversations, unlike the main area. Every club, bar, restaurant or café that I have been to offers a similar division of space. It’s not just the UX designer in me who senses this, but also the architect who understands this. 

So, the next time someone asks you to join them for a smoke, it’s not just the opportunity to consume nicotine (which you might respectfully decline) but also an opportunity to connect with them in a different environment. 

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