New York's smoking ban begins at midnight

March 29, 2003 at 6:39 PM   |   Comments

NEW YORK, March 29 (UPI) -- Saturday was the last day smokers could light up in most bars and restaurants in New York City.

At 12:01 a.m. Sunday, the city's new smoking ban kicks in, banning smoking in restaurants, bars, pool halls, bingo parlors, bowling alleys and the city's 14 jails.

Smoking still will be allowed in cars, private residences and a few pre-existing cigar bars.

"This law does not legislate morality," said New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. "This law does not take away anyone's rights. This law allows working people to earn a living in a safe workplace so they can provide for their families."

The Health Department found that more than 400,000 New York City non-smoking workers -- one out of every seven workers -- inhale second-hand smoke all or most of the time while on the job. More than two thirds of these workers are black, Latino or Asian, health officials said.

"Restaurant and bar workers breathe in more second-hand smoke than any other occupational group and, as a result, are more likely to die from lung cancer," said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden.

Doug Ballinger, owner of Webster Hall in the East Village told New York Newsday the ban will cost him $6,000 a week to hire more staff to enforce the ban. He said about 30 percent of his clientele now smoke in the club.

"With thousands of guests on any given night, it's going to be expensive," he told the newspaper. Ballinger added that repeat offenders would be removed from the club.

On Wednesday, Gov. George Pataki signed legislation banning smoking statewide. In July, the bill takes effect in all public places except Indian casinos.

To enforce the new ban, the Health Department has hired a dozen new inspectors to monitor the city's restaurants and bars. Frieden said they will supplement the department's existing force of 100 inspectors.

Under the law, first violations will be subject to fines up to $400; second violation $1,000; and third violations up to $2,000. The city also can shut down establishments that receive three violations within a year.

The Health Department has suggested that "if a person refuses to stop smoking, request the person leave the premises or refuse service."

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