n. A place where cigarettes are smoked illegally; a private smoking club.
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Some City Council members want to exempt [from a proposed anti-smoking law] all stand-alone bars that don't serve food, which is a pretty gaping loophole. Another option is to try to invent little sanctuaries for consensual smoking. In California, a sole proprietor who tends his own bar and thus endangers no employees is exempted from the no-smoking law. Other smoke-ban municipalities have allowed bars to reorganize as private smoking clubs — "smoke-easies," they have been called. Commissioner Frieden is scornful of such exemptions. "We don't allow asbestos-easies," he says. "We don't allow benzene-easies. We don't allow formaldehyde-easies, or radiation-easies."
—Bill Keller, “The Smoke Nazis,” The New York Times, October 19, 2002
1978 (earliest)
California voters, who gave the nation Proposition 13 last June, will vote on two more potentially precedent-setting initiatives in the November election. Proposition 5 would severely restrict smoking in most buildings and offices…The fight against Proposition 5 is run mainly by Jack McDowell, a chain-smoking political veteran. "We're not in the business of selling cigarettes or promoting tobacco," he says. "We're trying to defeat what we see as a very bad law." His group, Californians for Commonsense, contends that the law would be as tough as Prohibition to enforce, and that policemen have better things to do than raid office smoke-easies.
—Melinda Beck et. al., “No Smoking,” Newsweek, October 02, 1978
This word is an illogical-but-fun play on speakeasy, "a place where alcohol is purchased and consumed illegally." Speakeasy dates to 1889, but it was popularized during Prohibition (1920 to 1933) when it was illegal to manufacture or sell alcohol in the U.S. The word comes from the practice of speaking quietly in such places so as not to attract attention. That's why smoke-easy is illogical: smoking, as far as I know, is never that loud in the first place and one presumes that people would still speak quietly in a smoke-easy so as not to draw unwelcome attention from the lung huggers (a synonym for anti-smoking activists that I once heard on the radio).

Laurence Horn of the American Dialect Society gets credit for spotting today's term.
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