Smoking ban in nearly all public restaurants in Virginia

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine formally signed into law legislation that will ban smoking in nearly all public restaurants in Virginia.
Seated in a Virginia Beach restaurant that has already made the switch to smoke-free dining, Kaine signed Senate Bill 1105 and its companion legislation, House Bill 1703. The law takes effect on Dec. 1, 2009.
The new law exempts private clubs from the ban, in addition to those restaurants that establish physically separate and independently ventilated rooms for smokers.
“This reasonable and necessary public health measure has been one of my priorities for several years,“ Kaine said during a signing cermony at Croc’s 19th Street Bistro, flanked by the bills’ sponsors, Sen. Ralph S. Northam, D-Norfolk and Del. John A. Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake.
“I am extremely proud to have been a part of the coalition that made this day a reality, and I am thrilled to place my signature on this monumental step forward for public health in Virginia.“
In 2006, Kaine issued an executive order banning smoking in all state buildings.
The passage of the bill this year by the General Assembly was a highlight for the administration, which had been frustrated on other policy fronts, including efforts to further montior firearms sales at gun shows, broaden the rules on who can vote by absentee ballot and advance green energy and conservation measures.
It was also the result of rare bipartisan compromise between the Democratic administration and leadership of the Republican-controlled House of Delegates, which has opposed Kaine on a number of public policy initiatives in the preceding three years of his four-year term in office.
This year, Republicans and Democrats alike would not support Kaine’s bid to close the state’s budget deficit in Medicaid by doubling the tax on packs of cigarettes. But citing mounting evidence of the risk to public health, lawmakers went along with the restaurant smoking ban, approving the measure by comfortbale majorities in the House and Senate.
Statistics compiled by the Virginia Department of Health show that second-hand smoke is responsible for an estimated 1,700 deaths per year.
The new legislation protects workers by stating that restaurant owners cannot compel employees to work in a smoking area. Proprietors must also provide at least one smoke-free entrance to their establishments.

The Winfield chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars battles ban on smoking

Winfield City will soon have a legal fight on its hands. The Winfield chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars made good on a promise to challenge the city commission’s Nov. 3, 2008, decision to ban smoking in all public places in the city, including private clubs, with a lawsuit, according to Winfield City Attorney Bill Muret.
“The VFW filed a motion requesting a temporary stay of the ordinance,” said Muret.
Wichita-based attorney Orlin Wagner originally filed the suit requesting a temporary injunction of the ban in the Cowley County District Court on Jan. 1, Muret said.
He failed to pay a $5 service fee, however, so the injunction request was not served to the city until Feb. 11, according to city clerk Diane Rosecrans.
All suits against the city must be served to the city clerk by a court officer, Muret said.
In January 2008, the City of Newton passed an ordinance similar to Winfield’s. It was challenged by the Newton branch of the VFW and Wagner also handled the case.
On Dec. 22, 2008, Harvey County District Judge Carl Anderson ruled that the ban does not violate any constitutional rights and dismissed the lawsuit.
Muret added that the legal representation of the city will be handled by the city’s insurance company, Employers Mutual Casualty Co. of Wichita, Muret said. The insurance company has provided legal representation when legal challenges against the city have arisen in the past.
“The city carries insurance that covers different types of lawsuits,” Muret said. “Then (the city) contact the insurance company, and they decide whether it’s covered under the city’s insurance policy. The insurance company will then hire their own attorney to look at the case.”
Muret said that despite the many attempts across the country to repeals smoking bans, he doesn’t foresee a constitutional challenge to the Winfield ban going anywhere.
“I think that smoking bans everywhere have been challenged but have been upheld,” Muret said. “I expect the same to happen here.”
A court date in the case has not yet been set by the Cowley County District Court, he said.
“The court has looked at it at this time, but it has not been set for a hearing,” said Muret.
VFW canteen manager Tammy Cox said she was instructed by Wagner not to discuss specifics in the case, but she did say she has high hopes for the suit.
“I’ve got lots of comments, but I just can’t say anything right now,” said Cox

Smoking ban for South Dakota

Several senators switched their votes Wednesday on a controversial smoking ban, paving the way for South Dakota to join a growing list of states that ban smoking in virtually all businesses.
It was one of the most-watched votes of this legislative session so far, and it came one month after an almost identical bill died on the Senate floor by one vote. But in that one month, a second bill that started in the House passed there by a comfortable margin.
That put the issue – and the pressure – back in the Senate, where lawmakers were deluged with thousands of e-mails and phone calls on the issue, most coming from people who wanted the restrictions.
The state House still must agree to changes in the bill made by the Senate, or the two chambers could sort out the differences in a conference.
The bill then would go to Gov. Mike Rounds. With Rounds’ blessing, it would take effect July 1.
A spokesman for Rounds would not say whether the governor supports the bill – only that he would study the final version when it reaches his desk.
The bill that reached the Senate floor Wednesday had three exemptions where smoking would continue: hotel/motel rooms; cigar bars where at least 10 percent of revenue is generated from cigar sales; and tobacco shops.
Those changes were enough for Sen. Jim Peterson, D-Revillo, who voted against the first bill but backed Wednesday’s effort. Peterson said it was a “tough choice,” and he acknowledged that his two stances in a month would alienate constituents on both sides.
“I guess I’m trying really hard to make sure I have an opponent in the next election,” he joked.
Sen. Frank Kloucek introduced an amendment to lower the penalty for bar owners who fail to notify patrons about the ban. The House version had the penalty as a misdemeanor, but Kloucek said it should be a petty offense, the same offense that a customer would commit by smoking in the bar once a ban takes place.
“If this amendment passes, Sen. Kloucek will support the smoking bill,” he said. The amendment did pass, the only one of several to do so. Other amendments sought to exempt Deadwood gaming floors, video lottery parlors and any bar that didn’t serve hot food.
Sen. Bob Gray also switched his vote from no to yes. Gray said after the vote that it was a tough issue because it dealt with property rights. Gray said he researched the issue and found that the state first passed a ban in 1974 that applied to theaters, public buses, libraries and elementary and secondary schools. The restrictions were expanded and by 2002, restaurants were included.
“A purist for property rights, I think, would have to go back and say, ‘If you believe in property rights for bar owners, you believe in property rights for everybody.’ ” Gray added that he didn’t think most people would want theater owners to allow smoking.
“No matter how you vote on this issue,” he said, “you’re going to get flak. I fully expect that.”
Sen. Tom Nelson, R-Lead, asked for a chance to reconsider the bill later in the week, but most observers said it was unlikely votes would change on such an emotional issue.
Supporters were ecstatic their measure was almost certain to clear the Legislature.
“We’re obviously thrilled to have the smoke-free policy pass,” said Darrin Smith, the senior advocacy director for the American Heart Association of South Dakota. “We’ve been working on this issue for several years, and it was time for South Dakota to take this step forward.”
South Dakota would join about half the other states that have comprehensive smoking bans, Smith said.
But some business owners say the issue puts their futures in jeopardy. Deb Brobjorg, who owns Norby’s Bar in Dell Rapids, predicts sales will be down, particularly among patrons who play video lottery.
“I pray I’m wrong, and someone can stand on the highest point in the state and say, ‘You were wrong,’ ” Brobjorg said. “I hope that happens, but I know I am not wrong.”
Brobjorg said she will take a hard look at whether she can keep as many employees on the payroll and continue paying the health insurance premiums for two full-time employees.
“I already know what my options are,” she said. “I just don’t know when to implement them.”

Minister rules out tobacco ban

The Government will not ban tobacco displays in shops, says Health Minister Tony Ryall.
Confirmation of the decision, previously signalled by Prime Minister John Key, came yesterday in Mr Ryall’s response to a petition which asked for cigarettes and tobacco to be stored out of sight in retail outlets.
Parliament’s health select committee backed the petition, but it also said evidence could not directly link the banning of displays with decreasing smoking rates.
Mr Ryall said the Government was committed to reducing smoking and was prepared to consider any new and effective initiatives.
“The Government will consider any options, including legislation, if international or domestic research gives us a compelling case that it would lead to a significant decrease in tobacco use. I have asked the ministry to keep monitoring international moves in this area.”
The New Zealand Medical Association urged Mr Ryall to reconsider.
“Stopping the tobacco industry from advertising its products at point of sale is a vital step towards ensuring that the next generation of young New Zealanders don’t get hooked on an addictive product which kills half of its long-term users,” said association chairman Peter Foley.

The Nurses Organisation and the Dental Association said they were dismayed by the decision.
Research showed that young people did notice tobacco displays, a joint statement said, and teenagers who saw them were more likely to start smoking.