- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 21, 2005

D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange Sr. yesterday said he supports a bill that would make city workplaces smoke-free and is likely to be approved by the city lawmakers.

“Nobody should have to choose between a job and good health,” said the Ward 5 Democrat, who is running for mayor. “Nonsmoking bar and restaurant workers have a 30 percent higher risk of lung cancer than all other nonsmokers. We need to reduce that number by enacting a comprehensive smoke-free workplace law.”

Mr. Orange said he supports the Department of Health Functions Amendment Act of 2005, which was introduced by six other Democratic D.C. Council members earlier this year.

The bill would ban smoking in all public places except cigar bars, retail tobacco stores and outdoor patios and rooftops.

Council members Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat; Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat; Sharon Ambrose, Ward 6 Democrat; and at-large Democrats Phil Mendelson, Vincent Gray and Kwame Brown introduced the bill in May. They, with Mr. Orange, make up a majority on the 13-member council.

A hearing on the bill is scheduled for today in the Committee on Health, which is headed by council member David A. Catania, at-large independent.

Mr. Orange yesterday questioned Mr. Catania’s commitment to moving the bill out of his committee for a vote by the full council.

“I would not go to [the] bank on his position,” Mr. Orange said.

But Mr. Catania said: “I’m moving the bill tomorrow; I’ve said I was. You know, I am really tired of repeating myself. You know, I think people are either deaf or stupid. I have told them I will do it, and I intend to do it.”

Two other anti-smoking bills — the Smoke-free Workplaces Act of 2005 and the Occupational Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2005 — are scheduled for hearings in the Committee on Public Works and the Environment, which is headed by council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican.

Both bills would ban smoking in public places, but the Occupational Safety and Health Amendment Act would exempt cigar bars, tobacco stores and similar establishments.

The public-works committee has killed anti-smoking legislation in previous sessions, and the two bills are expected to meet the same fate.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Schwartz, who has opposed anti-smoking legislation, has introduced a bill of her own — the Smoke-Free Restaurant, Tavern, and Nightclub Incentive Amendment Act of 2005. It would give tax incentives to restaurants and bars that ban smoking and charge higher regulatory fees to those that allow smoking.

She said she is open to negotiating some of the finer points of her bill.

“What I am looking at would be an expansion of the compromise I have already offered,” Mrs. Schwartz said.

Montgomery County last year enacted a ban on smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants.

Lynne Breaux, executive director of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, said the ban has hurt bar businesses in the county and that the District could experience similar results if a smoking ban is enacted in the city.

Her group this week announced the start of a two-week radio advertising campaign highlighting its opposition to a mandatory smoking ban in D.C. restaurants.

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