Loophole in NY smoke ban offers hope to bars

Related tags Smoking ban New york

The controversial smoking ban in New York bars could be brought to an end thanks to a loophole in the law.The little-known clause allows businesses...

The controversial smoking ban in New York bars could be brought to an end thanks to a loophole in the law.

The little-known clause allows businesses that have lost trade to apply for exemption.

Public health officials across the state have been caught out by a flood of requests from bar operators wanting to have the workplace smoking ban lifted, all claiming trade has suffered since the ban was imposed earlier this year. Many counties were not aware of the waiver clause included in the state-wide ban until bars began to apply when it came into effect at the start of September. It covers businesses which have suffered "undue financial hardship" after implementing the ban, or where "other factors exist which would render compliance unreasonable".

State senator Tom Morahan said the waiver had been included because "the law was enacted to protect public health, not to cause financial difficulties to local bars and restaurants".

Campaigners promoting the UK industry Smoking Charter, which promotes self-regulation on smoking through the use of signage, good ventilation and no-smoking areas where possible, said the bureaucratic nightmare in New York highlighted the difficulties of imposing a legal ban.

Charter group chairman Nick Bish said: "This is further evidence that smoking bans, whether imposed by local authorities or governments, don't work. They are legally complex and hard to enforce. The sensible self-regulation approach is far more effective."

New York trade body the Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association, which has launched a challenge to the ban in the federal court, is encouraging its 5,000 members throughout the state to apply.

There are concerns that the waiver clause is open to political interference, since the final decision will be left to local officials. Bar operators want the New York State Department of Health, which has so far just issued a policy memo to county and city health departments, to lay down detailed guidelines for granting the exemption.

Related topics Legislation

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