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Local family restaurant doubles as a smoking lounge.
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By RICHARD AMRHINE
Statistics make it clear that smoking is on the way out. Today, just a quarter of all Americans over the age of 18 smoke. Twenty years ago, the figure was about one-third. The difference probably seems even greater than that because those who still smoke do so in their cars, in their own homes, or outside of public places. Those who whine about smokers' rights and smoker discrimination--not to mention Big Tobacco itself--have become fodder for punch lines on sitcoms and late-night television.
The good thing about this trend is that those who still smoke will smoke less if they have to go out of their way to light up. Another upside in places like Montgomery County, New York City, California, and other jurisdictions that have banned smoking in public places is that bars and restaurants will draw more of the three-quarters of Americans who don't smoke. The transition period is taking a toll in Montgomery County both on business and tax revenues, so those who said they would support smoke-free businesses should make good on their promises.
In a business-oriented state that also has the nation's lowest cigarette tax at 2.5 cents per pack, legislated bans on smoking aren't likely anytime soon. But the more businesses take it upon themselves to ban smoking, the more apparent it will become that losing smoking customers is no big deal, and it just might be good for business.
RICHARD AMRHINE is a writer and editor with The Free Lance-Star.