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Virginia House kills smoking ban

In a unanimous vote last week members of the Virginia House of Delegates sided with the restaurant industry, killing legislation that would have banned smoking in restaurants and nearly all other public areas throughout the commonwealth.

Gov. Timothy Kaine, D - Va. and the Virginia Department of Health strongly supported the measure, estimating that second hand smoke is to blame for more than 1,700 deaths per year. The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids spends as much as $124 per year in health care costs related to second hand smoke, according to a press release from the Governor's office.

"I think the decision should be lest up to the owner as to whether or not people can smoke in restaurants," said Paddy Browsman, owner of Paddy's Steakhouse and Pub. "We have people that come in and don't like the smoke and leave."

Browsman allows smoking in his north Stafford restaurant, noting that it brings in a more diverse after business hours crowd.

James Watts is visiting Stafford on a business trip from Georgia. Watts enjoys smoking cigars and says he "would be surprised" if Virginia would actually pass a public smoking ban.

"I've been smoking cigars for at least a year now, they represent a time in my life where I can enjoy the hard work I have put into my job, and relaxing with a cigar is one way that I do that," Watts said.

John Garvey of Stafford started smoking cigars more than seven years ago, but has never smoked cigarettes.

"When you go to a bar it's accepted that you will be around smoke," said Garvey.

Garvey said that he does not believe smoking should be allowed in family establishments around the state, saying, "I don't like to bring [smoking] around my family."

In October of 2006, Gov. Kaine signed an executive order banning all smoking in state buildings and automobiles.

Twenty-eight states, including Maryland and The District of Columbia have banned smoking in all public places.

Source: Stafford County Sun