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Pierce County bans smoking from its bars

A Bonney Lake Tavern patron enjoys a cigarette on New Year
A Bonney Lake Tavern patron enjoys a cigarette on New Year's Eve before the Jan. 2 smoking ban went into effect.
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By Dennis Box, The Courier-Herald

The controversial Pierce County ban on smoking in bars, restaurants and other public places went into effect on Friday. According to Bonney Lake Tavern owner Gary Woffard, "Everything went great. I put the signs up, put away the ashtrays and my customers were great about it. They just asked where they were supposed to go to smoke outside."

The ban has been a hot topic in bars and lounges across the county as the Jan. 2 deadline approached.

"I think it's ridiculous in an environment like this," Bonney Lake Tavern patron Mike said as he glanced around the bar on New Year's Eve. "I come down here to recreate with people I know. You make your own choices where you work and what you do. It's wrong for them to tell us what to do."

A woman sitting with Mike, who asked not to be named, stated, "I think it's discrimination. I go places where I can be loose and have fun. This is about the only place we have left, now they want to take that away from us."

The ban prohibits smoking in all Pierce County indoor public facilities including taverns, bowling alleys, minicasinos, bingo halls, hotels and private clubs. The ban does not extend to private homes, retail tobacco stores and private and semi-private rooms in nursing homes.

"It may hurt business at first," Susan Tarbuck, a bartender at Bonney Lake Tavern, said. "It should be statewide ban not countywide if they're going to do it. I went on vacation in California and it's statewide there. People just went right outside and didn't think a thing about it. Once everybody has to do it, people will go outside."

The resolution was adopted by the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Board on Dec. 3. Enforcement will be carried out by the Health Department, local police and fire departments.

A person caught smoking in a public place, or tearing up a no-smoking sign, can be fined $100. The business owner can also be fined $100 and a license can be suspended or revoked.

On Monday a group of bar, restaurant, bowling alley and other business owners met to decide whether to file a suit in an attempt to halt the ban.

The Health Board's resolution states a number of reasons for enacting the ban. The following are a few excerpts:

€ The Clean Indoor Air Act protects workers who work in many public places from exposure to the harmful health effects of secondhand smoke.

€ Employers in Washington State owe their employees a common law duty to provide a safe workplace reasonably free from tobacco smoke.

€ Involuntary smoking is a cause of disease, including lung cancer, in healthy nonsmokers.

€ There is no safe level of exposure to ETS (environmental tobacco smoke).

€ The California Environmental Protection Agency estimated that ETS accounts for up to 62,000 heart disease deaths annually in the United States.

€ The estimated number of annual deaths in Washington state due to secondhand smoke exposure is approximately 268 (191 from heart disease, 63 from lung cancer and 14 from sudden infant death syndrome).

€ The estimated annual number of deaths in Pierce County due to secondhand smoke exposure is approximately 33 (24 from heart disease, seven from lung cancer and two from sudden infant death syndrome).

€ A review found that bar workers are exposed to levels of secondhand smoke that are four to six time higher than in typical offices, and about 4.5 times higher than in homes with a smoker.

€ The review found that bar and restaurant workers are 1 1/2 to 2 times more likely to die of lung cancer than they would be if bars and restaurants were 100 percent smoke-free.

€ In the California Occupational Mortality Study, conducted during the period 1979-1981, waitresses had the highest death rates of any female occupational group. After adjusting for the effects of active smoking, alcohol intake and socioeconomic status, California waitresses had death rates from lung cancer, heart disease, and overall mortality that were 1 1/2 times higher than those for all other female workers.

The entire resolution document can be found at the Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health Web site - www.tpchd.org.

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com

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