D.C. Council Approves Smoking Ban

The Washington, D.C. city council overwhelmingly passed a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants this afternoon.

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.


FILED UNDER: Uncategorized, , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. JeffB says:

    Is there something wrong with economic incentive? Would it be so unthinkable to offer tax breaks that encourage owners to go non-smoking? Then, how would be survive, people would have choice.

    I lived near two bars in Seattle. One was non-smoking, the other was closer to a smoker than a bar. They both were packed. I patronized both depending on my mood. Is it so bad to have choice?

  2. John Burgess says:

    I don’t see why tax incentives (meaning somebody’s going to be paying more taxes than necessary) are required.

    Why not have two forms of restaurant licenses available: smoking and non-smoking. Owners can calculate (and hire staff accordingly) which makes better sense to them.

    If no bar owner thinks non-smoking is the way to go, then tough noogies for smokers. If, on the contrary, smoking bars are the only ones that make fiscal sense, then tough for the non-smokers.

    Last time I checked, there was no constitutional right to drink in a bar…

    Making the outdoors a non-smoking area is way beyond a step too far. My city (Sarasota, FL) is considering making beaches into non-smoking areas. That, to my smoking mind, is nuts.

  3. James Joyner says:

    John: The problem is that the choice becomes to either ingest people’s nasty smoke or stay home. A minority of people can therefore render public places unfit for the rest of us.

    The problem with smoking on sidewalks and such is the concentration issue. Like designated “smoking areas” outside of buildings, they quickly become noxious.

  4. hafowenv says:

    Intellectually, however, I believe that business owners have an absolute right to make decisions like this for themselves.

    The issue is one of workplace safety–pure and simple.

    I find it silly when people get worked up about smoking restrictions in bars and restaurants when smoking has been banned for years in every other public and semi-public space.

    If smoking is some innate “right,” then lets get rid of all restrictions on smoking. Shouldn’t pre-school teachers be able to smoke in the workplace? How about surgeons? Nurses?

  5. Herb says:

    When are people going to learn that the “smoking thing” is all about MONEY. The greedy, self serving, ambulance chasing Lawyers have made a fortune on smoking lawsuits and will continue to do so as long as there are people out there to support the Lawyers lust for more Money in their pockets.

    In the Big Tobaco Lawsuit, many states got a lot of money that was supposed to go for what they said their costs were for treating smokers, But, most states just pissed the money away on everything but what the stated it was needed for.

    The taxpayer never has seen a dime of this money.

    The only people that made anything out of NO SMPKING bans has and will continue to be SHIESTER LAWYERS.

    Have you ever gone into a resturant with a smoking/no smoking section and found that most of the smoking tables wer filled with non smokers if the no smoking tables were full.

    I have taken special notice that the non smoking persons are victems of no smoking publicity campaigns.

    The guy that started all this “no smoking” campaign” was Dr. C Edwin Koop. The same guy that refused to quarantine people with AIDS that is now in epidemic proportions thruout the country. Koop belongs in Jail for creating the epidemic.