Washington State Senate Passes Smoking Curb
SEATTLE (Reuters) - Washington state is moving toward stricter tobacco rules after the state Senate passed a ban on smoking in public places patronized by children, including restaurants and bowling alleys.
The ban, which would take effect on July 1, 2003, and exempt bars and other businesses already off-limits to people under 18, must be ratified by the House of Representatives after the Senate approved it in a 35-14 vote on Monday.
``Any time you protect children and in this case restaurant patrons from the dangers of second-hand smoke, that's a good thing,'' said Washington Alliance for Tobacco Control and Children's Health (WATCH) spokeswoman Kirsten Olson.
The bill reflected a compromise between WATCH and a restaurant owners' group seeking a level playing field with small diners and coffee shops, which have been exempted from smoking bans in other states.
The bill exempts casinos and lounges but would require more effective mechanical barriers between smoking and nonsmoking areas.
Washington's ban would be less aggressive than one in California, where smoking is outlawed even in bars. But public acceptance for stronger rules is building, anti-smoking advocates say.
``The public response is overwhelmingly favorable,'' said Richard Daynard, a law professor at Northeastern University in Boston, who heads the Tobacco Products Liability Project, which encourages smokers to sue tobacco companies.
Smoking rates have fallen steadily in recent years and while more than 40 million Americans still smoke, nonsmokers strongly prefer a tobacco-free environment, Daynard said.
``It used to be that this was considered a very weird thing. But now people say, 'We really liked it in California, and we want it at home,''' Daynard said.