Thursday, January 31, 2008

Today: Maryland Dining Industry to Collapse Into Quivering Pile of Goo

Maryland bars and restaurants might as well not bother opening their doors this weekend. No one's coming out anyway.

A statewide smoking ban is taking effect today.

We've all seen how the smoking ban has turned DC into a ghost town on nights and weekends. Young professionals head straight to Metro after work, ride home in listless silence, and sit at home reading the collected works of Henry David Thoreau.

OK, so that's all a big lie. Like every other community in the country, DC's smoking ban has had absolutely no noticeable impact on the city's economy. The same can be said of Maryland's counties that had already banned smoking:
In Howard County - smoke-free for eight months - officials have not received any complaints of lost revenue, said Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, the county's health officer. Since the Howard ban took effect, the county's smoking hot line has received about three dozen calls, but no fines have been issued, Beilenson said.

"The biggest news is that there is no news," Beilenson said. "It came in with a bang and went out with a whimper."
While Gov. Tim Kaine is pushing a Virginia smoking ban hard this year and the Virginia Senate is likely to approve it, the House vote will once again be close. Considering a full 70% of Northern Virginians support a ban, the eleven Northern Virginian delegates who voted against the ban last year are especially in focus. The nine Republicans and two Democrats are:
  • Dave Albo (R-Springfield)
  • Chuck Caputo (D-Chantilly)
  • Mark Cole (R-Fredericksburg)
  • Jeff Frederick (R-Woodbridge)
  • William J. Howell (R-Fredericksburg)
  • Tim Hugo (R-Centreville)
  • Bob Hull (D-Falls Church)
  • Scott Lingamfelter (R-Woodbridge)
  • Robert G. Marshall (R-Manassas)
  • Joe T. May (R-Leesburg)
  • Jackson Miller (R-Manassas)
You can contact your delegate directly, or if you don't know who your delegate is, use the General Assembly's search feature.

In the meantime, one clean air activist isn't counting on the General Assembly to do the right thing. He's going to court:
[James] Bogden is the plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against four local restaurants in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. The suit seeks to require the restaurants to become smoke-free, arguing that they must accommodate Bogden's disability, coronary artery disease, and eliminate secondhand smoke so he can eat at them. Each of the restaurants allows smoking in designated areas.
While all the legal and legislative shenanigans are sorted out, Arlington residents have a great resource in the Arlington Civic Federation's list of smoke-free bars and restaurants (recently updated).
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