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D.C. Council set to narrow smoking-ban exemption

A few weeks back, I detailed how the D.C. Council, in the course of passing the yearly budget, botched its effort to carve out an exception in the city’s indoor smoking ban for a particular fundraiser.

What had been presented as a one-night exemption for the big-deal “Fight Night” fundraiser for philanthropist Joe Robert’s Fight for Children charity was instead a license for any of the city’s 79 liquor-licensed hotels to fill rooms with smoke once a year.

On Tuesday, the council will attempt a fix.

Draft legislation circulated this week will specify that the language should apply only to a “special charity boxing event which benefits children’s charities and permits cigar smoking.” Furthermore, only hotels with a “ballroom or special event catering space with an occupancy of 500 or more persons” would be eligible to host such an event.

Anti-smoking activists aren’t satisfied.

“They’re still undermining one of the most popular laws in D.C. history,” said Bob Summersgill, who helped push for the ban as part of the SmokefreeDC group. “I think it’s a bad example for the children who are supposed to be the beneficiaries to show adults smoking.”

He also noted that the exemption was introduced on the council dais as a budget amendment, with no public scrutiny — and little scrutiny from members themselves. Only Phil Mendelson (D-At Large) raised objections to the proposal.

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