- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 24, 2004

A D.C. Superior Court judge has upheld her decision to block a Nov. 2 referendum on banning smoking in the city’s bars and restaurants.

Judge Mary A. Terrell last week denied a request to reconsider her May 21 decision that a smoking ban is not appropriate subject matter for a voter initiative.

She had ruled in May that the ban would affect sales-tax revenue, thereby violating the District of Columbia Home Rule Act’s prohibition of referendum votes on “laws appropriating funds,” a power reserved exclusively for the D.C. Council and Congress.

The initiative’s supporters already have appealed the case to the city’s highest court and aim to get the question on the November 2006 ballot. They also vowed to increase pressure on the D.C. Council to impose the ban.

Jack Hardin Young, the lawyer who filed the appeal for the American Cancer Society and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said Judge Terrell’s original ruling was “misguided.”

Mr. Young said the broad criteria Judge Terrell used to determine that smoking bans are “laws appropriating funds” would disqualify nearly every conceivable ballot initiative.

The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, which led opposition to the initiative, applauded the judge’s decision.

“The association is very happy that the rights of its members to choose whether to be smoke-free or allow smoking has been preserved,” said Andrew J. Kline, general counsel for the restaurant group.

Laws forbidding smoking in public are becoming more common throughout the country, with smoking bans in place in California, New York, Delaware, Maine and Massachusetts.

On the District’s border, Montgomery County recently outlawed smoking in bars and restaurants — the strictest ban in the region.

Smoking-ban supporters in the District said they remain confident that the city will be smoke-free someday, despite the judge’s ruling.

“This is a minor skirmish in the overall war,” said Angela Bradbery, president and co-founder of Smokefree DC, an anti-smoking group that backed the initiative, but was not involved in the court action.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kline said restaurateurs do not have a pro-smoking agenda.

“Our membership has a better handle on their business than these [anti-smoking] groups, and our membership is opposed [to a ban], because it is a threat to their businesses,” Mr. Kline said. “We do not believe that government mandates in the form of prohibitions work. These issues are better handled through lifestyle education, which we support.”

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