MASCOT Fights for SmokeFree Air
We were warned over and over in 1994 that many restaurants would go out of business if the Smoke-Free Air Act was enacted. But after the law went into effect, the restaurant business in New York City boomed, tourism increased, and the city's restaurant industry and employment grew significantly more than it did in the rest of the state, which by and large has not placed restrictions on smoking. Clean indoor air is vital for our employees' health, and it does not hurt profits.
Michael O'Neal, owner of O'Neal's restaurant and past President of
the New York State Restaurant Association
The End of the Smoky Bar
The few remaining outposts of smoking in public indoor spaces in New York City, such as small restaurants and bars, will soon be smoke-free -- if Mayor Michael Bloomberg has his way, and it seems that he will. While most of the workers in these establishments and their nonsmoking customers breathe a sigh of relief, smokers find their universe shrinking yet again. The law, if passed by the City Council, will put the city alongside California and Delaware as the nation's most unaccommodating places for smoking.
Closing a major loophole in the city's anti-smoking law, the mayor has framed the proposed new ban as a workers' health issue, and that has merit, especially considering that most other workplaces don't allow lighting up indoors. Studies show that bar and restaurant workers are at a greater risk for lung cancer than other workers. Bartenders, in particular, currently have no choice but to breathe in large quantities of secondhand smoke.
Since taking office, Mr. Bloomberg has been a kind of anti-Marlboro Man, targeting smoking as a public health enemy, which makes him one of the best things to happen to lungs since the chest X-ray. Earlier this summer, the mayor put a squeeze on puffers with new cigarette taxes that pushed the price of a pack to more than $7 -- about twice the national average.
Once the new ban is in effect, those extremely expensive cigarettes may burn a hole in some pockets and pocketbooks while their owners look for a place to use them. Expect smokers to congregate just outside the establishments that once allowed them to light up in more social, convivial surroundings.
Mr. Bloomberg can anticipate challenges to the new ban, including the argument that it will hurt business. His staff rejects that notion, with one exception. Restaurants and bars will do just fine, but the tobacco companies, they say, will feel the heat.
The New York Times
August 12, 2002