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Let's fire smoking eateries page 2
Local family restaurant doubles as a smoking lounge.

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RICHARD AMRHINE
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Date published: 11/16/2003

By RICHARD AMRHINE

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I smoked for the better part of three decades, calling it quits on March 3, 1999. I'd been cutting back for years. First work became off-limits for smoking, then the house--especially after the kids came along. Then it really began to hit home that the sooner I quit those last few daily cigarettes, the longer I might be around to enjoy my family.

Although I'm writing this column purposely to run the week of Great American Smokeout Day this Thursday, my feeling was always that I'd quit when I was ready, not at the behest of anyone or organization.

Smoking tobacco is legal, so people ought to be free to smoke wherever it's allowed. But the time has come for owners of restaurants and other businesses to realize that catering to smokers is a dying strategy. They claim to fear a loss of business, but ignore a possible gold mine of customers who are staying away because of the smoke.

I e-mailed the restaurant's corporate headquarters to suggest that its inability to provide a true smoke-free eating area creates a very unfriendly environment for kids and nonsmokers. The reply thanked me for my comments and said something about striving to please all of their customers. I must have deleted it in frustration. We won't be going back.

In Montgomery County, Md., a new law bans smoking in restaurants and bars. Hard-core smokers are fuming over being barred from lighting up in their favorite haunts. "What's next?" goes the familiar chorus in such situations, "Restaurants being banned from serving fatty foods? Decaf only at the coffee shop?"

Well, no. There is a very significant difference with smoking: Those who smoke are affecting the health not only of themselves, but of everyone around them. In restaurants and bars, that includes patrons, servers, and bartenders who do not smoke and would rather not inhale secondhand smoke. Smoke-free areas, as at the restaurant, seldom work as intended.

Moreover, with smoking routinely banned in so many places today, nonsmokers have grown accustomed to smoke-free environments and many will simply not visit or patronize places where they have to put up with smoke.


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