As more and more eating and drinking venues prohibited smoking inside at their own will, the latest Virginia Anti-smoking policy would not trigger much opposition in the state which is home to the most ancient traces of tobacco consumption originated in the Jamestown settlement more than four centuries ago.
Thus, beginning from December 1, Virginia became the 27th state to outlaw lighting up in restaurants and bars. The only exemptions make up those places where smoking sections are physically separated from non-smoking areas and having specialized ventilation system.
The ban is especially landmark for tobacco-loving Virginia, where tobacco plant is the most spread crop on source of huge revenue for the state coffins. The primary role of tobacco crop can be vividly demonstrated by seeing the roof of Virginia State Capitol located in Richmond, which is decorated by frescoes with golden tobacco leaves.
Moreover, the Capitol building is situated several blocks away from the largest manufacturing plant of Philip Morris USA, the maker of legendary Marlboros.
However, the proximity to cigarette industry did not stop City Councils of Richmond and North Carolina’s Raleigh, where leading tobacco companies, Philip Morris and Reynolds American reside, from implementing their own citywide bans on smoking in eateries.
For instance, North Carolina, the second largest tobacco state behind Virginia, also banned indoor smoking on January 2, 2010. The NC legislation permits smoking in cigar clubs, tobacco shops and patios, similar to Virginia law. However, in contrast to Virginian ban, NC legislation would not exempt any eatery, no matter whether it provides smoking section or not.
Thomas Hoselton, spokesman for Virginia Restaurateurs Coalition said that uniform legislation with no exemptions would be more beneficial for restaurant owners, because they would not have to spend thousands dollars on designating a smokers’ section.
Owners of several venues like Richmond-based Jazz Café opted for making his place smoke-free long before the statewide ordinance entered into effect. However, for other like Hisham Arazi the smoking ban appears to be an unfair jeopardy for his small hookah lounge in Richmond. The Palestinian immigrant has to spend huge sums of money to build a separate section and install expensive ventilation system there in order to allow his customers smoke hookah a traditional Arabian after lunch pastime that became very popular across the nation recently.
Arazi said that even upon making required changes he would not be sure his business would survive, as anti-smoking advocates are eager to convince the legislature to cancel all exemptions.
The American Heart Foundation reported that 27 states and the District of Columbia have already adopted legislations to prohibit smoking in restaurants, and few of them provided exemptions for hookah bars.
Economists state that a partial ban on smoking like that in Virginia is not good for restaurant industry as it provides competitive disadvantages for small venues that are not able to build separate sections and have to become completely smoke-free, while their larger rivals would establish such smoker-friendly sections and attract more customers. They admit that comprehensive ban on smoking in restaurants would be more fair.