A smoke-free environment for the District's hospitality workers cannot be optional, as D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz (R-At Large) suggests ["Compromise on Smoking," Close to Home, May 29]. Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer, heart disease and chronic lung ailments such as bronchitis and asthma.
Fewer than 13 percent of bartenders and 28 percent of servers are protected from secondhand smoke nationally, yet 76 percent of white-collar workers are covered by smoke-free policies. Studies show that food service workers have a 50 percent greater risk of dying from lung cancer than the general population.
Dozens of studies and the experience of the growing number of smoke-free states and cities show that smoke-free laws do not have a negative effect on restaurant and bar business and may even have a positive one.
In April a study released by the Harvard School of Public Health found that Massachusetts's comprehensive smoke-free law did not affect sales or employment in the state's restaurants, bars and nightclubs after taking effect last July 5.
According to the 2005 Zagat survey of America's top restaurants, 82 percent of consumers also expressed a preference for prohibiting smoking in restaurants. Therefore, it's arguable that the District's failure to go smoke-free has put it at a competitive disadvantage to the dozens of popular tourism destinations that are smoke-free.
Hotel Employees & Restaurant
Employees Union, Local 25
Carol Schwartz is wrong when she says that the District has plenty of smoke-free options for people who want to dine out or go out for a drink. Most people want a restaurant in which they can sit down, look at a menu and have the option of ordering a drink. Only a tiny percentage of such restaurants in the District are smoke-free, and I know of only one freestanding smoke-free bar (Halo's). In the District, it's almost impossible to listen to music, play pool, shoot darts or have a drink in public without breathing the toxins in secondhand smoke.
Mrs. Schwartz's bill will do little to change that and should never become law because it will be so expensive to implement and enforce. The best, easiest, healthiest, cheapest and most popular route to better health is to follow New York and seven other states in making all indoor workplaces -- including bars and restaurants -- 100 percent smoke-free.
MICHAEL "TAC" TACELOSKY