- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 18, 2003

Montgomery County’s bartenders and servers, the people who are supposed reap the greatest health benefit from a smoking ban, are also some of the toughest critics of the plan to outlaw smoking in bars and restaurants.

“It would be money out of my pocket,” said Emund Rennolds, a 19-year-old waiter at the Tastee Diner in Silver Spring.

He fears that the ban will drive customers to the nearby smoker-friendly District. The tips he relies on to make a living would go with them, he said.

That was the opinion of most bartenders and servers throughout Montgomery County, where the County Council introduced a resolution last week to prohibit smoking in restaurants and bars.

The resolution has the support of five of the council’s nine members, almost guaranteeing passage when it goes to a vote in July. A sixth council vote would be enough to override an expected veto by County Executive Douglas M. Duncan.

Supporters say the ban would improve public health by protecting bar and restaurant workers, as well as nonsmoking patrons, from secondhand smoke. They also say it would discourage smoking and reduce smoking-related illness.

There have been conflicting studies about the health effects from secondhand smoke. For example, a 2002 study by the British Medical Association concluded that secondhand smoke kills 1,000 residents a year in Great Britain. But a 1998 study by the World Health Organization found no significant health risk posed by secondhand smoke.

More than 125 cities — including Boston, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco — have imposed a smoking ban similar to the one in Montgomery County.

This is the county’s second try at outlawing smoking in bars and restaurants. The County Council passed the ban in 1999, but it was overturned by the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, on a parliamentary technicality.

The decision to overturn the ban, which was never implemented, stemmed from an appeal by restaurant owners. A new ban also is expected to face a court challenge.

But the council members behind the ban say it will stick this time.

At the Tastee Diner, Mr. Rennolds said he doesn’t smoke cigarettes, cigars or a pipe but that he would rather take his chances breathing secondhand smoke than lose his smoking customers.

“We have a greater number of people who want to smoke … than we do people who complain about smoke,” he said.

Mr. Rennolds’ status as a nonsmoker is not the norm in the nation’s food-service industry, where there are typically more smokers than in the general public.

An informal survey found that at least 50 percent of bar and restaurant workers in Montgomery County smoke. Health officials estimate that about 12 percent of county residents are smokers.

“It is going to hurt a lot of restaurants,” said Donna Kenney, bartender at Barnaby’s Pub in Silver Spring. “Of course, that is going to affect the amount of money that individuals get.” She smokes cigarettes, as do about 60 percent of the servers at Barnaby’s, so she also doesn’t expect any health benefits from the ban.

“There’s going to be a lot less people at the bar because they are not going to stay for any length of time if they have to go somewhere else to smoke, especially when they are being served alcoholic beverages,” she said.

About a block up University Boulevard at the Anchor Inn seafood house and lounge, bartender Levi Carter said the ban is likely to make him poorer before it makes him healthier.

“It will hurt our pocketbooks,” he said. “Not to be greedy, but that’s how society is.”

Mr. Carter, 34, smokes cigarettes, as do four or five of the Anchor Inn’s six regular bartenders. He guessed that half the restaurants servers smoke cigarettes, too.

“Smoke doesn’t bother me,” he said. “It’s part of the [bar] atmosphere. If a person is going to smoke, they are going to smoke.”

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