Restaurant and bar smoking ban will take effect December 1st

By Nicole Bell - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A new state law prohibiting smoking in most bars and restaurants takes effect in less than two weeks; today, a big reminder from the state Health Department about consequences for not complying for both restaurants and patrons.

Violators can be fined $25. That's for the business owner and the person smoking inside that establishment. Right now, many businesses are gearing up to become smoke-free. Debbie Bell just posted a sign to remind customers of the upcoming change.

"I think if I had done it just by myself, it would have cost me business, but I think everybody having to do it, it won't make that much of a difference," said restaurant owner Debbie Bell.

The state Health Department says some 70 percent of all restaurants and bars are already in compliance.

"We've done a lot of work over the last 6 months to make sure restaurants are aware. We will then ask restaurants to come into compliance. If they do not then the local authorities have the ability to issue a summons," said Dr. Karen Remley, State Health Commissioner.

Inspectors will be on the lookout for violators.

"We'll look and see if there is evidence of people smoking - are their ashtrays - are their signs that say you can't smoke here. We'd also ask that any Virginian who goes into a restaurant where there is smoking after December first to let us know," said Remley.

Although some disagree with the ban - and wish the government would butt-out. A state wide survey of nearly 4,000 residents in Virginia found that 82 percent of respondents support the measure.

"They may be unhappy and complaining right now, but we all understand that there are laws and regulations that we must adhere to as a society in order to make our society be a safe place for us all to live," Remley said.

Today the state Health Department issued a challenge to the public -- to visit their favorite restaurant on the very day the new law takes effect. 

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