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Smoking bans may spread to tobacco states

Publication Date: 2005-07-03
  • Publication:Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch
The wave has largely skipped tobacco states, but that's changing. A new restaurant smoking ban took effect Friday in Georgia, which has strong historical ties to the cash crop.

Health-policy analysts and secondhand-smoke opponents see Georgia's ban as a beachhead in efforts to extend similar restrictions.

"I think a lot of people in the South will look to Georgia and say: 'They're a tobacco-growing state. If they can do it, why can't we?'" said Andy Lord, a lobbyist for the American Cancer Society in Georgia. "There is a profound sense of inevitability now."

Fourteen states have banned restaurant smoking as part of a broader effort to eliminate secondhand smoke from workplaces . . .

The debate, which has played out in dozens of statehouses, comes down to a few fundamental questions. What's more important: a smoker's right to enjoy a cigarette or a nonsmoker's right to breathe clean air? Should it fall to public-health officials or to restaurant owners to say where smoking is allowed?

John Singleton, a spokesman for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., which is fighting smoking bans across the country, echoes the concerns of many restaurant owners when he says the government should leave private business alone. . . .

Philip Morris USA, the nation's largest cigarette company, decided this year not to actively lobby against indoor smoking bans, spokeswoman Jennifer Golisch said. . . .

Efforts to bring bans to North Carolina and Virginia, two big tobacco states, hit roadblocks this year, in part because of industry objections.

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