Virginia public smoking ban snuffed again by House sub-committee

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

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The Virginia legislature's House General Laws committee, a subcommittee of the House of Delegates, tabled a Senate-passed bill banning public smoking by not voting on it Thursday last week. By tabling the bill, the proposed legislation banning smoking in restaurants, bars and public establishments cannot move to the lower house of the General Assembly for a vote.

The move by the 6-member subcommittee leaves the House of Delegates two-weeks in the current legislative session to work out a compromise between the tabled SB 1161 Senate bill, and compromise proposals, that could form new indoor smoking laws in the state.

The dichotomy that exists between Virginia's rural areas and its northern sections plays a part in the legislative proposal by delgate H. Morgan Griffith that would require public places that allow smoking to post signs at the entrance that say something as simple as, "Smoking allowed here".

Smaller mom-and-pop businesses could be affected negatively by a state-wide ban sponsored by public health groups that advocate for a smoke free environment. "Think about your small bars, your local bars -- places where everyone has been going for 20 years and everybody in the place smokes," said co-owner of Henrico County's Sharky's Bar & Billiards in January.

"The subcommittee's intent was to give SB 1161's sponsor, Sen. Brandon Bell, R-Roanoke County, time to work out a compromise with Del. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, who sponsored a different smoking bill approved by the subcommittee last month," according to Mason Adams of Roanoke.com.

The Virginia Senate voted 23-16 on Monday last week to pass the smoking ban legislation, garnering two additional votes in favor of the measure than in the previous year.

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