City to consider smoking ban in restaurants

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December 1, 2007

2:35 PM

p. Williamsburg may join a growing number of cities and states banning smoking in restaurants and bars.

p. City Councilman Mickey Chohany plans to discuss a possible ban with fellow council members within the next few weeks. According to the Daily Press, any proposed ban would come on the heels of similar measures taken in Suffolk, and Norfolk. Chohany attributes the rumors of a potential ban to “buzz… [in] the Peninsula area.”

p. Chohany, who also owns Second Street Restaurant in Williamsburg, made his business smoke-free approximately two years ago. Chohany says customer feedback regarding the change was positive, he is less sure how patrons of many of the city’s other restaurants may respond to a ban. Chohany added that he is “not going to force his choice on everyone else.”

p. Although Chohany supports the discussion of a city-wide ban, he recognizes support for such a measure is ambivalent.

p. “People smoke when they come to bars,” Debbie Tsitsidopoulos, owner of the College Delly, said. “[A ban] will impact business.”

p. Carl Moody, an economics professor at the College, said that a smoking ban may result in a decline in restaurant dining. Williamsburg restaurants attract many tourists, and smoke-free dining may eliminate choices for diners who smoke. Moody added that this may in turn lead to a decline in the number of restaurants in the city, further limiting dining choices.

p. Others, like Green Leafe Café Co-owner Lindsey Gormley, don’t foresee a ban negatively affecting profits.

p. “To be honest, I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal,” Gormley said in an interview with the Daily Press. “It’ll … probably be met with a lot of negative feedback right away, but like everything else, you get used [to] it.”

p. In an interview yesterday, Councilman Robert Braxton acknowledged that discussion of the ban would require the input of many members of the community, but the health benefits of such a ban are undeniable.

p. “Secondhand smoke is dangerous,” Braxton, a former smoker, said. “My personal opinion is I don’t like going to places where there’s smoke.”

p. The American Cancer Society attributes thousands of deaths and illnesses within the United States each year to secondhand smoke. On its website, the ACS argues that “there is no credible evidence that going smoke-free is bad for business.”

p. Gov. Tim Kaine attempted to ban smoking where food is served earlier this year, which would have added Virginia to the growing number of states placing restrictions on smoking. The measure drew criticism for being too broad, as it would have required other events, like carnivals and street fairs, to be smoke-free. Although it was voted down by the General Assembly, local governments have begun to implement ordinances similar to Kaine’s measure.

p. According to the Daily Press, enforcement of any ban may be complicated since many restaurants and businesses lie outside council jurisdiction but maintain Williamsburg addresses.

p. As of yet, there is no specific ban in store for Williamsburg, only a discussion of how prohibiting smoking in restaurants may impact local businesses and the community.

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