Now it’s cigarette lovers who might get smoked.

A bill approved last Wednesday by the District’s city council in an 11-1 vote bans smoking in city restaurants, bars and other public places, setting the stage for unprecedented new limitations on smoking in Washington, D.C.

The bill, which will be implemented immediately if Mayor Anthony A. Williams signs it into law, could threaten small business and bar owners in the Georgetown area whose customers would be forced to make an inconvenient trip outdoors to light up.

Williams, however, has ten days to veto the bill and is expected to do so.

On the mayor’s Web site, Williams expressed concern over the ban’s effect on the city’s hospitality industry.

“It is my belief that a 100 percent smoking ban would result in economic harm for these businesses, particularly neighborhood establishments,” he wrote.

The bill has a few exemptions, including outdoor areas, hotel rooms, cigar bars and retail tobacco outlets. D.C.’s eight hookah bars, establishments that center their business on tobacco, were similarly exempted by the bill.

The Tombs, a Georgetown bar frequented by Georgetown students, is one of the many businesses that will face changes if the bill is signed.

Bryan Weir (COL ’05), a bartender at The Tombs, said that he does not believe the bill will negatively affect business.

Weir noted the many attractions of a smoke-free space and felt the possible disadvantages “will all balance out.”

Weir said that he recognizes that the ban is part of a greater trend that has affected much of the east coast as well as other countries around the nation.

“People are already used to making adjustments,” he said.

Weir also said that he felt the bill would be most burdensome to those who frequent bars or restaurants to relax and remain seated, but said that the necessity to go outside and smoke can easily become a social activity.

Yana Lipnitsky (SFS ’08) said that both businesses and individuals will feel the impact of the proposed bill.

“It’s going to decrease [a business’s] profits,” she said. “People won’t want to go in and out of bars, they’ll just leave.”

“For smokers, it’s a social thing,” she added. “If you can’t smoke, you won’t drink much either.”

If Williams signs off on it, the new law would be effective immediately in restaurants. Bars would have one year to make the adjustment to non-smoking. The bill carries with it a hefty punishment, setting fines as high as $1,000 for individual violators and $500 for establishments.

Over 10 states have bans in place and many individual counties have enacted regulations of their own. Prior to the bill’s approval, over 200 bars and restaurants in the District had already outlawed smoking.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.