States take no-smoking laws to great outdoors

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The Independent US

Voters in Washington state will be invited to approve the most draconian statewide anti-smoking law in the United States next week when they vote on whether to ban cigarettes and cigars from all public places - even cigar lounges - and create a 25ft no-smoking perimeter around public buildings.

Although polling has been less than definitive, the measure looks likely to pass and is being backed by a public health coalition. But it is being resisted by a loose group of smoking aficionados, and bar and restaurant owners who say it will be excessive and almost impossible to police effectively.

The county around Tacoma, 45 minutes south-west of Seattle, abandoned a similar ban last year because smokers simply migrated to the nearest Indian reservation, which has its own laws, taking their spending money with them.

A straw poll of residents in Seattle, which bans smoking in three-quarters of its bars and restaurants, suggested many people liked the idea of cracking down further on tobacco use but were uncomfortable with the severity of the measure.

Proponents of Initiative 901 are unapologetic, even about fears that they would drive cigar lounges out of business - or underground. Calls for exemptions, they argue, are the result of lobbying by tobacco interests.

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