A citywide ban on smoking in public places was scheduled to take effect at 12:01 a.m. Sunday even as state lawmakers debated their own tougher version of an anti-smoking law.
The City Council overwhelmingly passed the local ban, designed to protect workers such as waiters and bartenders from secondhand smoke, on Dec. 18. Nearly half the votes against the measure came from members of the Queens delegation.
The city law would allow smoking to continue at cigar bars and in no more than 25 percent of a bar or restaurants sidewalk, rooftop or garden area.
Establishments can also use specially ventilated smoking rooms until 2006 under city law, but employees would be prohibited from entering them while patrons are lighting up. The smoking room provision could be extended after its effectiveness is evaluated.
The city law also makes exceptions for bars in which the employees own the establishment, private member-operated clubs with no employees, and residential care facilities such as nursing homes and substance abuse centers with designated smoking rooms.
Despite substantial opposition to the city law by bar and restaurant owners, a proposed state law could render some of the local loopholes irrelevant if it is passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. George Pataki.
The stricter state ban would override anti-smoking laws passed by localities with looser regulations such as New York Citys.
The New York Times reported the state ban, which could come to the Senate floor this week, would not exempt owner-operated establishments or allow bars and nightclubs to use the special smoking rooms.
The Assembly is considering a similar bill, which would go into effect 120 days after it receives the governors signature if he chooses to approve it.
Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2003 Community News Group
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