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10 things you should know about the smoking ban

Thu., Dec. 8, 2005

Smoking inside buildings becomes illegal today in Washington state.

Voters, by a ratio of 2-to-1, passed Initiative 901 last month to amend Washington’s Clean Indoor Air Act to include smoking bans at bars, restaurants, bowling alleys and other indoor-smoking refuges.

To comply, businesses with outdoor smoking areas must ensure smokers are not lighting up within 25 feet of doors, windows that open, or building ventilation systems.

The Spokesman-Review talked with smokers, businesspeople and government officials about the ban.

Here are some answers to a few questions raised:

Q: I don’t want to anger my customers, but I need to comply. Advice?

A: Ask politely. Inform patrons of the new law and ask them to understand. Commiserate if necessary. If all else fails, treat the situation as you would with anyone breaking the law – call the police.

Q: Who will enforce the ban?

A: The Spokane Regional Health District, which will assign the work to its inspection team — the same people who inspect restaurants.

Q: Will enforcement be aggressive?

A: Most enforcement actions will be based on complaints.

Q: Hooray for the ban. How do I file a complaint?

A: Call the health district at (509) 324-1553.

Q: How much is the fine?

A: Warnings will likely be issued on first offense. After that, fines could reach $100 per day.

Q: Since I have to be outside to smoke, where do I stand?

A: At least 25 feet from any building doors or ventilation systems. Pedestrians can continue smoking as they walk past a door, but employees or customers cannot loiter around a door, smoking.

Q: 25 feet? How far is that?

A: Less than a first down in football.

Q: Can I make my business a “private club” to get around the law, much like bars do in Utah to subvert codes regulating alcohol sales?

A: No. Not if your business has even one employee.

Q: Is this for real?

A: Absolutely, so if you’re a smoker, remember your gloves and ChapStick this morning.

Q: So where can a person go to have a beer and cigarette?

A: Try a tribal casino, or go bowling or barhopping in Idaho.


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