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Smokers cough up more places they're allowed
By MIKE HALLIDAY
Dennis Young was smoking a cigarette Wednesday afternoon while polishing off a beer at the Scoreboard Pub, the last day he could take a drag at a bar or any other public place.
At midnight, the voter-approved statewide smoking ban went into effect. Smokers can no longer light up in any indoor public establishment without feeling pain in the pocketbook. Same goes for owners and operators. Anyone cited for violating the law gets a $100 fine.
"It's bull," Young said Wednesday as smoke curled up from his cigarette. "It's going to take little places like this and put them out of business."
In November, more than 63 percent of those voting across the state in the general election approved Initiative 901, also called the Clean Indoor Air Act. More than 65 percent of the King County voters who went to the polls approved the initiative.
While the new law prohibits smoking inside businesses, it also legislates where smokers can take a break outside. If the thought of not smoking inside got people fired up over the initiative, many talked about the outdoor rule that smokers must be at least 25 feet from doorways, windows or air intakes to a building. Smokers can also get a fine for that.
Mark Lull, sitting across from Young, agreed with his friend to a point. With his pack of cigarettes and lighter sitting next to him, Lull said that as a musician, he doesn't like playing in smokey venues because it hurts his voice.
As a smoker, Lull said, businesses should make the choice individually.
Young noted other bars and pubs had gone non-smoking on their own and were still open.
Lull gave the analogy of going to a smoking-allowed tavern being like watching a television show: If you don't like it, change the station.
"We're not out to get smokers," said Roger Valdez, manager of the tobacco prevention division in the Seattle-King County Public Health Department.
Department officials won't be hiding in the bushes to pounce on businesses violating the ban. For one thing, the law doesn't spell out what constitutes a violation and what doesn't, Valdez said.
"We're going to have to work with managers and owners," he added.
Valdez said the department will take enforcement steps if businesses aren't making the effort to keep smoking out. If people are in a business and notice someone smoking, they should first complain to management and then contact the Health Department if nothing is done to stop the smoker, he explained.
As for the 25-foot rule, Valdez said it's not a hardline edict. The law wants smoke outside and not getting inside.
Rob Zaffino was torn. He saw the change as a good thing for him personally and as owner of the Scoreboard Pub in Federal Way. A smoker, Zaffino said he plans to use the new law as motivation to quit.
While unwilling to divulge how he voted on the initiative, Zaffino expected to see more business coming through his door after Thursday, the first full day of the ban. Food sales keep the doors open, and more people might come if they don't have to deal with the smoke, he said.
However, he was also appalled society so easily gave up its right to smoke indoors just like making it illegal to not wear a seatbelt or a motorcycle helmet.
"There aren't enough people on the planet born in the '60s," Zaffino said with a smile.
He said he's worried the law will send more patrons to tribal casinos, which aren't bound by the no-smoking law.
One of those might be Young. "And that's that," he said.
Staff writer Mike Halliday: 925-5565, email@example.com