D.C. Council Approves Smoking Ban
The D.C. Council today approved a broad ban on smoking in District bars and restaurants. Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) has threatened to veto the bill, but supporters have more than enough votes to override a veto. The ban, which passed by a vote of 11-1, is modeled closely on similar restrictions in New York City. The District ban would first apply to all restaurant dining rooms upon enactment and then extend to bars, nightclubs and taverns in January 2007.
The District’s law would include exemptions for outdoor areas, hotel rooms, retail tobacco outlets and cigar and hookah bars and facilities that research the effects of smoking. The measure also would provide an economic-hardship waiver for businesses that could demonstrate a “significant negative impact.”
This is an issue where my personal interests and intellectual philosophy are at odds.
Personally, this is great news. I dine in the District several times a month and find cigarette smoke nauseating. I have frequently walked out of an establishment within the first couple minutes, after finding it too smoky. Indeed, allowing smoking in the sidewalk tables outside the restaurant goes beyond what I would like; it’s positively nasty to have to walk through it.
Intellectually, however, I believe that business owners have an absolute right to make decisions like this for themselves. While I am undoubtedly not alone in my disgust at smoking, the proprietors have presumably calculated that smokers are good for business. This is especially true at bars, where a lot of people who generally do not smoke light one up.
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