Virginia Takes Important Step Forward With Gov. Kaine Signing Restaurant Smoking Ban

GOVERNOR KAINE SIGNS RESTAURANT SMOKING BAN 

~ Ban will protect workers and patrons and will be strongest in traditional tobacco states ~

RICHMOND Governor Timothy M. Kaine today joined Senator Ralph Northam (D – Norfolk ), Delegate John Cosgrove (R – Chesapeake ), other legislative supporters, public health advocates, and other stakeholders to sign legislation banning smoking in Virginia ’s bars and restaurants. Identical bills HB1703 (Cosgrove) and SB1105 (Northam) will ban smoking in nearly all restaurants across the Commonwealth, allowing narrow exceptions for private clubs and restaurants with a designated smoking room that is physically separated and independently ventilated from non-smoking dining areas. The Governor ceremonially signed the legislation at Croc’s 19th Street Bistro in Virginia Beach .

“This reasonable and necessary public health measure has been one of my priorities for several years, and I appreciate the work of so many dedicated legislators and staffs, advocates and stakeholders, and members of my staff who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to bring it to fruition,” Governor Kaine said. “I am extremely proud to have been a part of the coalition that made this day a reality, and I am thrilled to place my signature on this monumental step forward for public health in Virginia .”

This legislation, which will go into effect December 1, 2009, includes strong protections for both workers and patrons. Proprietors may not require wait or bus staff to work in any area of the restaurant where smoking may be permitted. Additionally, restaurants that choose to have a separated structure for smoking must ensure that at least one public entrance to the restaurant is in a smoke-free area. Local health departments will inspect for compliance with the smoking prohibitions when completing other routine inspections. The Virginia Department of Health has published a set of Frequently Asked Questions on their website to help restaurant owners ensure compliance.

Although a number of states with smoking bans exempt bars, Virginia’s smoking ban will be one of the strongest in the region—and the strongest amongst the top tobacco-producing states—because the Commonwealth does not differentiate between bars and restaurants.  The bill is a significant public health accomplishment and is strongly endorsed by numerous health advocates including the Medical Society of Virginia, March of Dimes, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, Virginia Chapter.

Second-hand smoke is responsible for an estimated 1,700 deaths per year, according to the Virginia Department of Health. In addition, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids estimates the Commonwealth spends $113 million a year on health care expenditures related to exposure to second-hand smoke.

As part of his ongoing efforts to promote a healthy Virginia and healthy state workforce, Governor Kaine signed Executive Order 41 banning smoking in all state buildings and vehicles in October 2006. 

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