- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 2, 2006

Going to dinner in the District tonight? Better not plan on sitting in the smoking section. The first phase of the District’s smoking ban goes into effect today, snuffing out smoking in nearly all indoor workplaces, including restaurants, apartment building lobbies and offices.

Smoking will be prohibited in restaurants without bars and in the dining sections of restaurants with bars. Bars, nightclubs, pubs and the bar areas of restaurants have until Jan. 1 to become smoke-free.

Exceptions were created for tobacco shops and outdoor seating areas. Once the law in enacted, establishments will be able to apply for an “economic hardship waiver” if management says the law significantly hurts business.

Smokers caught lighting up in violation of the law will be fined between $100 and $1,000 by the District’s Department of Health. A second violation boosts the minimum fine to $200. Establishments violating the law will be fined $500 per day.

Establishments violating the law are not expected to be fined immediately.

“We want to provide warnings and as much education as we can to business owners and the public at large,” said Denise Grant, manager of the Tobacco Control Program in the District’s Department of Health.

Smoking ban proponents, including the nonprofit group Smoke Free D.C., say smoke is harmful to the employees of workplaces that allow smoking and that separating smokers and nonsmokers in restaurants doesn’t do enough to prevent the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.

Some restaurants have said the smoking ban will hurt business if smokers have the option of going to bars and restaurants across the Potomac River in Virginia, where there is no blanket smoking ban.

In February, the Virginia Senate passed a smoke-free bill, which would make smoking illegal in bars and restaurants. It died in a House of Delegates committee last month when the General Assembly session ended.

In Maryland, three counties — Montgomery, Talbot and Prince George’s — and the cities of Rockville and Gaithersburg prohibitsmoking in restaurants and bars.

Washington starts summer tourism push

Washington tourism groups last week began their largest tourism advertising campaign since the September 11, 2001, tourism recovery campaign.

The Washington, DC Convention and Tourism Corp. (WCTC) and the Washington Convention Center Authority are each putting $500,000 toward advertising the city’s summer program, Washington DC Celebrates American Originals, which is centered on the July reopening of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery. Both have been closed since January 2000 for renovations.

The campaign, which includes newspaper, magazine and online advertisements, began with an ad in the New York Times’ museum preview guide last week.

“As we have become healthier as a tourism industry, we’re able to invest more dollars into getting incremental visitation,” said Victoria Isley, senior vice president of marketing and communications at the WCTC. “It’s very critical for us in particular as you see how competitive the marketplace is.”

During the early months of 2002, about $1.2 million was spent drawing tourists back to Washington after the terrorist attacks.

Contact Jen Haberkorn at [email protected] or 202/636-4836.

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