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Smoking ban passes

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Lawmakers in tobacco-friendly Virginia passed a limited ban on smoking in bars and restaurants Thursday, and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said he would sign it.
The measure restricts smoking to separately ventilated rooms in restaurants and private clubs in a state that has grown tobacco for 400 years.
The decisive 60-39 vote was in the House of Delegates, dominated by Republicans who have battled tobacco restrictions for years. The Senate earlier voted 27-13 for the bill.
“I think it will be signed quite promptly, in the quickest-drying ink I can find,” said Kaine, the Democratic National Committee chairman, who privately negotiated the compromise with Republican House Speaker William J. Howell.
The measure passed the House and Senate without debate.
So revered is tobacco that frescoes of the golden leaf are painted on the ceilings of the Capitol rotunda. The crop was a mainstay of the earliest Virginia settlements, dating to Jamestown in 1607. A few miles south of the Capitol, Philip Morris churns out Marlboros and Virginia Slims at the world’s largest cigarette factory.
Kaine worked for years for a total ban of smoking in all restaurants. Generally, the bill requires any restaurant that allows smoking to limit it to an area separated from non-smoking patrons by a wall and a door and a ventilation system that doesn’t mix secondhand smoke with fresh air.
“I think persistence can be a virtue,” Kaine said.

The bill’s House sponsor, Del. John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, said there is support in his suburban Hampton Roads district for the restrictions, but that Virginia is not ready for a fuller ban on smoking.

“The overwhelming majority of people who sent us here wanted this to happen,” Cosgrove said.

Republicans were divided on the issue. Last week, House Republicans defied the speaker and diluted the bill with amendments that would have required either independent ventilation or a door but not both as the compromise demanded. They also waived the ban totally when restaurants are rented for private, invitation-only events.

The Senate rejected the House amendments, and a conference committee of three senators and three delegates restored the bill largely to the version Howell and Kaine reached. That version passed Thursday.

Arrayed against the bill was a coalition of powerful lobbies representing the tobacco industry and the state’s restaurants. Phillip Morris spokesman Bill Phelps said the legislation went too far.

“Every restaurant in Virginia already had the right to ban smoking on their own, and many of them did, Phelps said.

Restaurant industry lobbyist Tom Lisk battled the bill as giving large chain restaurants an unfair advantage over small, independent cafes that can’t afford renovations necessary to create smokers-only zones.

Anti-smoking groups gave the measure a lukewarm reception.

The American Cancer Society did not support the bill, but accorded it a measured welcome after its passage as a step toward a fuller ban.

“We’ve worked on this for a number of years, and we will continue to do so because it’s a public health issue,” said Cancer Society lobbyist Keenan Caldwell.

Longtime anti-smoking activist Hilton Oliver of the Virginia Group to Alleviate Smoking in Public, or Virginia GASP, called it “a pretty good bill under the circumstances.”

“It’s not as good a bill as it could have been, but in this state with this legislature, nothing ever is,” said Oliver, the group’s executive director.

Among the groups that supported the bill were the Medical Society of Virginia, which hailed it as a substantial step toward moving restaurant workers away from the health risks of extended exposure to cigarette smoke.

Kaine, uniquely barred by Virginia’s Constitution from seeking re-election this fall, called passage Thursday “a very significant accomplishment” but dismissed suggestions that it will define his term. He said he ranks it alongside the administrative ban on smoking he imposed on all state buildings in 2006, shortly after he took office.

Smoking ban passes

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Lawmakers in tobacco-friendly Virginia passed a limited ban on smoking in bars and restaurants Thursday, and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said he would sign it.
The measure restricts smoking to separately ventilated rooms in restaurants and private clubs in a state that has grown tobacco for 400 years.
The decisive 60-39 vote was in the House of Delegates, dominated by Republicans who have battled tobacco restrictions for years. The Senate earlier voted 27-13 for the bill.
“I think it will be signed quite promptly, in the quickest-drying ink I can find,” said Kaine, the Democratic National Committee chairman, who privately negotiated the compromise with Republican House Speaker William J. Howell.
The measure passed the House and Senate without debate.
So revered is tobacco that frescoes of the golden leaf are painted on the ceilings of the Capitol rotunda. The crop was a mainstay of the earliest Virginia settlements, dating to Jamestown in 1607. A few miles south of the Capitol, Philip Morris churns out Marlboros and Virginia Slims at the world’s largest cigarette factory.
Kaine worked for years for a total ban of smoking in all restaurants. Generally, the bill requires any restaurant that allows smoking to limit it to an area separated from non-smoking patrons by a wall and a door and a ventilation system that doesn’t mix secondhand smoke with fresh air.
“I think persistence can be a virtue,” Kaine said.

The bill’s House sponsor, Del. John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, said there is support in his suburban Hampton Roads district for the restrictions, but that Virginia is not ready for a fuller ban on smoking.

“The overwhelming majority of people who sent us here wanted this to happen,” Cosgrove said.

Republicans were divided on the issue. Last week, House Republicans defied the speaker and diluted the bill with amendments that would have required either independent ventilation or a door but not both as the compromise demanded. They also waived the ban totally when restaurants are rented for private, invitation-only events.

The Senate rejected the House amendments, and a conference committee of three senators and three delegates restored the bill largely to the version Howell and Kaine reached. That version passed Thursday.

Arrayed against the bill was a coalition of powerful lobbies representing the tobacco industry and the state’s restaurants. Phillip Morris spokesman Bill Phelps said the legislation went too far.

“Every restaurant in Virginia already had the right to ban smoking on their own, and many of them did, Phelps said.

Restaurant industry lobbyist Tom Lisk battled the bill as giving large chain restaurants an unfair advantage over small, independent cafes that can’t afford renovations necessary to create smokers-only zones.

Anti-smoking groups gave the measure a lukewarm reception.

The American Cancer Society did not support the bill, but accorded it a measured welcome after its passage as a step toward a fuller ban.

“We’ve worked on this for a number of years, and we will continue to do so because it’s a public health issue,” said Cancer Society lobbyist Keenan Caldwell.

Longtime anti-smoking activist Hilton Oliver of the Virginia Group to Alleviate Smoking in Public, or Virginia GASP, called it “a pretty good bill under the circumstances.”

“It’s not as good a bill as it could have been, but in this state with this legislature, nothing ever is,” said Oliver, the group’s executive director.

Among the groups that supported the bill were the Medical Society of Virginia, which hailed it as a substantial step toward moving restaurant workers away from the health risks of extended exposure to cigarette smoke.

Kaine, uniquely barred by Virginia’s Constitution from seeking re-election this fall, called passage Thursday “a very significant accomplishment” but dismissed suggestions that it will define his term. He said he ranks it alongside the administrative ban on smoking he imposed on all state buildings in 2006, shortly after he took office.