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Smoking Bans for Restaurants and Bars: Wave of the Future?


Smoking Bans for Restaurants and Bars: Wave of the Future?
Friday, July 27th, 2007

Posted by Amelia Figueroa, National Business Compliance Department

A number of states have recently enacted workplace smoking bans. Illinois joined the fray just this week, with the passage of a smoking ban that goes into effect on January 1, 2008. A similar ban that prohibits smoking in most workplaces in Maryland will go into effect on February 1, 2008.

In the past, many states prohibited smoking in public areas, but permitted it in restaurants and bars. These laws are slowly being changed, with a number of states adding restaurants, bars and even casinos to the “non-smoking” list. Minnesota already has significant bans on smoking in public areas. Effective October 1, 2007, a new law that bans smoking in restaurants and bars in Minnesota will go into effect. Montana has passed a similar law, which is slated to go into effect on October 1, 2009.

New Hampshire’s law banning smoking in restaurants and bars goes into effect on September 17, 2007. Oregon’s 100% smoke-free workplace law will become effective on January 1, 2009. That’s the same day that a Utah law banning smoking in bars will go into effect.

Opinions are divided on smoking bans in restaurants and bars. Many workers in the hospitality industry embrace such laws, pointing out that without such measures, employees are exposed to “passive smoking” every work day. Restaurant and bar owners are usually less enthusiastic. They voice fears that they will lose business as people stay home to smoke.

Most people consider workplace smoking bans a recent phenomenon, but the earliest known smoking ban dates back to September, 1590. That’s when Pope Urban VII issued a papal decree that anyone smoking inside a church, or in the porchway, would be excommunicated. The Pope’s ban included chewing tobacco and sniffing it, as well.  The ban was short-lived, however. Pope Urban VII died of malaria after just 13 days in office, one of the shortest Papal tenures in history.

Urban VII wasn’t the only historical figure opposed to smoking in the workplace, either. While Winston Churchill was often photographed chomping a cigar, Adolph Hitler banned smoking in every German university, post office, military hospital and Nazi Party office in 1941. “Der Fuhrer” also introduced widespread anti-tobacco advertisements, which continued until Germany’s World War II defeat in 1945.

The first smoking ban in the U.S. was enacted in 1975, when the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act made it illegal to smoke in most public places. In its initial form the act required restaurants to have a no-smoking section, but allowed smoking in all bars.

The first complete smoking ban was in California in 1998. The bill banned smoking in bars, extending a workplace smoking ban originally passed in 1994. Today, the once-controversial bill is widely applauded. Other states such as New York quickly followed suit.

A number if cities in California and across the nation have banned smoking in public parks and on beaches. Several municipalities have passed bans making smoking illegal anywhere outside of a private home.

These laws, like all modern smoking bans, are a reaction to an increasing body of research that shows the unhealthy effects of second-hand smoke. A recent study, for example, shows that non-smokers who are married to someone who smokes have a 25% to 30% higher risk of lung cancer, emphysema and other smoking-related disorders, compared to those who are married to non-smokers.

Smoking bans are not a phenomena limited to the U.S. In 2004, Ireland and Norway passed bans on smoking in all public places.  The U.K. passed similar ban in 2007.

The American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation is an anti-smoking group that keeps meticulous records of smoking legislation. According to the group, there are 23 states with some form of state-wide workplace smoking ban in place. These include:

New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Dakota

 In addition, there are counties and municipalities in almost every state that ban smoking in some form, from Alaska to Wyoming. One state that is notably absent from the list is North Carolina an area where tobacco is a major crop and the tobacco lobby has been especially strong in the past. At least for the present, smokers are welcome anywhere in the state.


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