D.C. smoking ban extends to bars

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

WASHINGTON -- Smokers are being forced out of bars and nightclubs in the District of Columbia beginning today, and some businesses are worried about losing dollars to Virginia, which has strong ties to tobacco. "A lot of people are just going to drive closer to home [in Virginia]," said Jody Taylor, manager of the Black Rooster Pub in downtown Washington. "For a lot of people, it's hard to have that cold beer in one hand without a cigarette in the other." The smoking ban, which passed a year ago by the D.C. council, took effect in April for restaurants and offices and extends to bars and nightclubs after New Year's Day.

Mayor-elect Adrian M. Fenty doesn't believes businesses will be hurt.

"We really painstakingly reviewed every city, especially major cities, that enacted a smoking ban, and there was no evidence whatsoever that enacting a smoking ban sends business elsewhere," Fenty said.

In fact, smoke-free bars and restaurants may attract Virginia customers to Washington, said Arlington County, Va., board chairman Paul Ferguson.

The nation's capital follows 21 states and more than 2,300 municipalities that have mandated smoke-free workplaces, according to Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights.

California was the first state to ban smoking in bars in 1998, and voters this year in Arizona, Nevada and Ohio overwhelmingly approved bans. Britain is banning smoking in pubs on July 1.

Around Washington, Maryland and Virginia do not have statewide smoking bans for restaurants and bars. Maryland counties may have local bans, but Virginia -- a tobacco-growing state --doesn't allow counties and cities to enact their own smoking bans.

Smoking is still allowed outside the U.S. House chamber in the ornate Speaker's Lobby and in the offices of senators and representatives. Incoming Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has signaled she may move toward a ban on smoking.

On the Net:

Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights: http://www.no-smoke.org/

Restaurant Association: http://www.ramw.org/

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: