New Smoking Ban Costing Some Employees Their Jobs

Knoxville (WVLT) - The statewide smoking ban put out cigarettes inside all public places, but it also may put some employees out of a job.

The Non-Smoker Protection Act applies to restaurants, bars, and hotels.

The state says the ban's meant to protect non-smoking employees from "deadly" second-hand smoke.

Volunteer TV's Mike McCarthy explains why that's costing some employees their jobs.

There are ten ways business can still let customers get their nicotine fix.

One is only cater to customers at least 21-years old.

But that means underage employees get snuffed out of work.

Bartender Dustin Fritts can barely keep up with the orders.

"I think it's because we're one of the few restaurants in the area that's still smoker friendly," said Fritts.

Tennessee's smoking ban is now in effect.

So, to let you fire up a smoke inside, Ray's Entertainment Sports Grille had to fire four staff members.

"I don't totally agree with that. I think there should be some sort of grandfather law. We have some people that's been here for two years," said Fritts.

But the only years that matter, are your age.

Ray's beat the smoking ban by only letting those 21 years old or older inside.

And that meant those at the bar and those behind the bar.

"We tried to help them relocate or accommodate them as best we can because they were all wonderful girls," says Lindsay Tisdale, Marketing Director for Ray's.

To keep the cash coming in, the restaurant made other changes.

They went smoking but also added a section just for non-smoking.

The seats are separated by glass and the air is filtered by smoke eaters.

The Electric Cowboy also stayed smoking.

"That means ten or twelve employees will be jobless," said Adam VanVeeleen, manager of the Electric Cowboy.

That's 30% of their staff up in smoke... almost.

"We're currently looking at it with our attorneys. We are not firing them. We'll let them stick around until we fine out what we need to do," said VanVeeleen.

The law says smoldering cigarettes inside mean they need to be 21 and over at all times.

"When something says at all times, does that mean at all times that day, at all times period? It's not written," he said.

Fritt's says he'd rather have his friends than the cigarettes.

"They're great employees fun to work with," said Fritts.

The state calls the job losses an "unintended consequence."

No one knows exactly how many employees get the boot.

That's because the choice to keep smoking is solely up each business.

The State Health Department and Labor Department will enforce the ban.

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