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Clean air on the menu

Publication Date: 2009-12-01
  • Author:Editorial
  • Publication:Washington Post

Virginia implements a modest new law on smoking in restaurants.

As of Tuesday, most of the rest of Virginia's restaurants must also go smoke-free, according to a state law that's kicking into effect. The measure is the product of Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's multiyear fight with Republicans for an effective restaurant smoking ban, and because there is no legal distinction in Virginia between restaurants and bars, the measure applies to watering holes, too...

There is an exception: Restaurants may maintain separately ventilated smoking rooms, even though the surgeon general's report concluded that air-filtration devices and separate ventilation systems can't protect people from secondhand smoke.

Undoing that exception is a good idea, though probably not a politically feasible one. So more important for now is that the law be strictly enforced. The measure leaves that to local authorities, and the $25 fine for violating it is low. Peter Fisher of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids argues that state authorities should at least query local health departments about their enforcement habits.

Three-fourths of restaurants in Virginia have gone smoke-free, many in anticipation of the new law. With luck, most of the rest will refrain from installing separate ventilation systems and embrace the law. If they do, Virginia's diners will be healthier for it.