Shutting Out Tennessee Smokers?

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Knoxville (WVLT) - From higher taxes per pack, to fewer places to light up, smokers may feel like Tennessee lawmakers are trying to burn them at both ends.

Volunteer TV's Gordon Boyd has more on the latest fight to ban almost all smoking indoors.

And why this push may pass.

This time, many hospitality and tourism groups aren't fighting it because it promises to protect and customers and workers, and spreads the burden equally.

But questions still burn.

"I don't like the smoke, even most smokers don't like the smoke," says Knoxvillian Tim Johnson.

"It's kind of disgusting and rude to have smoke in people's faces, it's just not cool," says 14-year-old Mackenzie Cover.

Such is the fire behind many of the laws that have pushed smokers to take their butts and ashes outdoors.

But, "I don't think smoking should be allowed in restaurants at all," says Charles Reeves, a non-smoker.

Tennessee's proposed Non-Smoker's Protection Act would ban smoking indoors in any public place.

"Public" defined as any place where everybody is invited or permitted.

"But if you're gonna have it in a restaurant, a sealed off section would be okay," says Ann Cover, a non-smoker.

West Knoxville's Peerless has been separating smokers and diners since Gary Kalogeros opened two years ago.

"The cigar room is just a little retreat to go back and separate everybody with the cigar smoke," Kalogeros says.

Such a set-up would qualify as an exception. So would age-restricted businesses, such as bars, and private homes and clubs. Hotels and motels could keep their smokers-only rooms.

But restaurants and airports smokers' lounges would have to be separately enclosed, and ventilated.

"It adds a pretty substantial cost to a restaurant to do that," had Gary not built in Peerless' cigar lounge from the get-go, he says, retro-fitting the restaurant could have cost 40 grand. "I'd say the chances would be pretty slim for most restaurants to do that."

"You have a non-smoking end of the restaurant, it's like the non-chlorinated end of the pool," says State Senator Tim Burchett, (R) Knoxville.

State Senator Tim Burchett figures the ban will pass, not only for the health issue, but the wallet. "An enormous portion of what we may in TennCare and Medicaid and everything else goes to smoke-related illnesses."

Restaurateurs say construction costs aren't the only roadblock discouraging separate lounges for smokers.

Somebody would have to serve those smoking customers, and clean up after them,

Servers then exposed to the very smoke from which these new laws, would try to protect them.

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