Possible Smoking Ban Law in Virginia..

February 6, 2009 - Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and Republican House Speaker William J. Howell have agreed on a plan to prohibit smoking in most Virginia bars and restaurants, putting unprecedented political heft behind a measure that was once unthinkable in the cradle of the nation's tobacco industry -- and home base to one of the largest producers of cigarettes in the world, Altria - Philip Morris USA. Kaine and Howell both predict the legislation will be approved.

Under the plan, which represents a rare moment of bipartisan cooperation between the state's two most powerful leaders, smoking would still be permitted in private clubs, and other public establishments would be given the chance to construct enclosed, ventilated smoking rooms for patrons.

A few hours after Howell (R-Stafford) and Kaine stood together to unveil their plan, the legislation was approved by a House committee. It will be taken up Monday by the full House for a vote.

The ban lacks enforcement -- violating the ban would bring only a $25 fine for businesses.

Richard Kluger, who wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning book "Ashes to Ashes" about the history of tobacco, said Virginia leaders' proposal to ban smoking in bars and restaurants represents a major milestone in efforts to marginalize smoking in the United States.

Such laws save lives, e.g., from 2003 to 2006, heart attack deaths in Massachusetts plummeted 30 percent,

Nearly 600 fewer Massachusetts residents have died from heart attacks each year since legislators banned smoking in virtually all restaurants, bars, and other workplaces four years ago,
The study, conducted by the state Department of Public Health and the Harvard School of Public Health, shows that a steep decline in heart attack deaths started as Boston and most of its neighbors adopted bans. Enforcement of the statewide law beginning in mid-2004 coincided with a further reduction, the study found. From 2003 to 2006, heart attack deaths in Massachusetts plummeted 30 percent, significantly accelerating what had been a more modest long-term decline.

References: A Bipartisan Blow To Smoking in Va. Leaders Support Ban in Bars, Restaurants by Tim Craig and Anita Kumar Staff Writers, Washington Post, 2/6/2009; Deal puts smoking ban in restaurants on path to passage by Julian Walker Warren Fiske, The Virginian-Pilot, 2/6/2009.