Ashtrays disappeared across Virginia last month, as no-smoking signs cropped up at restaurants, clubs and bowling alleys in response to a new law that took effect Dec. 1 — and anti-smoking advocates are celebrating. "It is a huge public health gain," says David DeBiasi of the American Lung Association in Virginia.
The General Assembly passed the smoking ban last year as a health precaution. Secondhand smoke is responsible for about 1,700 deaths per year in Virginia, according to the American Cancer Society. DeBiasi, who is a registered nurse, says the result of the ban will be fewer cases of lung cancer and heart disease, as well as less frequent and less severe asthma attacks in nonsmokers.
The law prohibits smoking in public dining rooms and restrooms, and it mandates a public entrance to nonsmoking areas. But a venue may have a smoking room with a separate ventilation system and entrance.
The Tobacco Company, a Shockoe Slip restaurant with a "Cigarette Girl" who sells cigarettes and cigars, went smoke-free Dec. 1 on all three floors. The restaurant added a designated smoking area outdoors with heaters. Rachel Grove, the restaurant's marketing director, says that the Cigarette Girl remains, but tobacco products may not be used in smoke-free areas.
Abdul Hady, owner of the now smoke-free Athens Tavern in the Fan, says with a laugh, "I was satisfied with [the ban] because I am not a smoking guy."
But Jerry Mitchell, co-owner of Holiday Bowl in Chester, says the ban worries him. "I am still not sure whether or not the men's league is going to quit, or whether I am going to have to put an exhaust system in the building."