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Washington will restrict smoking; Virginia likely to profit

Bert Doyle, 45, of Silver Spring, Md., and Melissa Fredericks, 35, of Arlington, Va., had a smoke last week inside Lucky Bar in Washington. This week, a ban will make it harder to smoke. (JACQUELYN MARTIN/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

WASHINGTON -- Smokers are being forced out of bars and nightclubs in the District of Columbia beginning today, and some businesses are worried about losing dollars to Virginia, which has strong ties to tobacco.

"A lot of people are just going to drive closer to home," said Jody Taylor, manager of the Black Rooster Pub in downtown Washington. "For a lot of people, it's hard to have that cold beer in one hand without a cigarette in the other."

The smoking ban, which passed a year ago by the D.C. Council, took effect in April for restaurants and offices, and was extended to bars and nightclubs after New Year's Day.

The mayor-elect, Adrian M. Fenty, said he does not believe businesses will be hurt.

"We really painstakingly reviewed every city, especially major cities, that enacted a smoking ban, and there was no evidence whatsoever that enacting a smoking ban sends business elsewhere," Fenty said.

In fact, bars and restaurants that are free of smoke may attract Virginia customers to Washington, said the chairman of the Arlington County, Va., board, Paul Ferguson.

The nation's capital follows 21 states and more than 2,300 municipalities that have mandated smoke-free workplaces, according to Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights.

California was the first state to ban smoking in bars in 1998. Voters this year in Arizona, Nevada, and Ohio overwhelmingly approved bans.

Britain is banning smoking in pubs on July 1.

Around Washington, Maryland and Virginia do not have statewide smoking bans for restaurants and bars.

Maryland counties may have local bans, but Virginia, a tobacco-growing state, does not allow counties and cities to enact their own smoking bans.

Smoking is still allowed outside the US House chamber in the ornate speaker's lobby, and in the offices of senators and representatives.

Incoming Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has signaled that she may move toward a ban on smoking.

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