Smoking Bans Progress

Chicago, Washington committees endorse proposals

CHICAGO & WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Two cities' attempts -- Chicago and Washington, D.C. -- to ban smoking in restaurants and bars made progress last week.

In Chicago, a City Council committee approved a proposed ban, but the full council will wait to vote on the measure while aldermen try to craft a compromise with the state's restaurant industry, according to the Associated Press.

The Health Committee approved the proposal Thursday. But committee chairman Alderman Ed Smith said the ban won't be voted on at Tuesday's City [image-nocss] Council meeting. "I'm in no big hurry," he said. "I'm going to give (opponents) a chance."

The measure has pitted public health advocates' concerns over secondhand smoke against the food and beverage industry, which argues a ban would trample free enterprise and send smoking patrons to the suburbs.

Some aldermen have joined industry lobbyists in seeking an exemption for freestanding taverns and restaurant bars separate from eating areas. Mayor Richard Daley also has urged "some form of compromise."

And in Washington, a City Council health committee endorsed legislation that would ban smoking by January 2007, and the full council is expected to vote by the end of the year, according to a report from AFP News. The bill, similar to new rules already in force in New York City, would allow exceptions for outdoor areas, cigar bars and hotel rooms.

Opponents have warned the ban would deter legions of tourists and convention delegates who flock to the U.S capital each year, and encourage people to take their business to the Virginia suburbs, where smoking is permitted in bars.

"While this delays (Washington,) D.C., from achieving 100% smoke-free status until 2007, it will enact a strong comprehensive smoke-free law with very minor exemptions," pressure group Smokefree D.C. said.