Vermont limits smoking

by Alexander R. Edlich | 5/12/93 10:00pm

The Vermont State Legislature recently passed a law which will ban smoking in all buildings open to the public, possibly the toughest law of its kind in the country.

The first stage of the law, which will ban smoking in government-owned buildings and buildings open to the general public, is scheduled to go into effect July 1. Included in the long list of such buildings are stores, libraries and video arcades.

By 1995, when the full law is in effect, smoking will be prohibited in all restaurants, hotels and motels.

Only those areas in which owners have cabaret licenses -- where more than half their revenues come from entertainment or alcohol sales -- will be able to permit smoking.

Michael Sirotkin, a lobbyist for the American Heart Association, told The New York Times that although individuals found to be smoking in restricted areas will not be fined, establishments that do not follow the law will be subject to fines, and possibly closed down.

A Coalition on Smoking and Health official told The Times, "Cities have done it, but this is the first time a state has taken this action."

Representative Ann Seibert, who co-sponsored the bill, said the law was prompted by studies on second-hand smoke and the health risk caused by it.

"It still seems too good to be true," Seibert told The Times. "My colleagues and I were increasingly outraged by the extent to which our health-care dollar is used to pay for the damage caused by smoking. The report on the dangers of second-hand smoke issues by the E. P. A. in January only reinforced that."

Governor Howard Dean said he will sign the bill.

While many Vermont restaurant owners object to the new law, some say customers reacted favorably.

Assistant Manager of the Susse Chalet Inn in White River Junction George Emanuel said he thinks the law will cause some travelers to choose to stay in hotels in New Hampshire instead of in Vermont.

Simon Pearce, a popular restaurant in Quechee Village, has enforced a ban on smoking since Christmas, according to Assistant Manager Kelly Pike.

"There's been a great reaction," she said. "It's because of the public's health that people have accepted the policy."

"There are too many laws regulating everything and everyone. This is just another," said a worker at the Howard Johnson in White River Junction.