Smoking Ban: Your Rights

Knoxville (WVLT) - With the stroke of a pen, Governor Bredesen put out the smoke in most Tennessee businesses, including restaurants.

The Governor signed the Workplace Smoking Ban into law Monday, with few exceptions.

Medical Reporter Jessa Goddard looks at how the law will affect both smokers and non-smokers, and when.

About 25 percent of Tennesseans smoke, which means 75 percent do not.

Public health officials say this new law protects that 75 percent.

April first, the Bistro at the Bijou implemented a policy that will become law at most other restaurants in July.

A smoking ban that will apply to most businesses, including restaurants.

"It got to be an issue just if one or two people were smoking, the whole place smelled like smoke,” says Martha Boggs, manager at Bistro at the Bijou.

Many smokers and the restaurants they patronize have said something stinks about the smoking ban, and it's not just the smell of cigarette smoke.

Some restaurant and bar operators have expressed concerns about losing the business of smokers who won't come, if they can't light up.

But Boggs says the gains have outweighed the losses. "It's been a very positive thing for me. Business has been up. I've lost maybe this much of liquor business, but made up for it in food sales. So, it worked out really well for me.

But there are exceptions to the law, including bars or restaurants that prohibit people 21 and under at all times.

Businesses employing no more than three workers.

And retail tobacco stores.

"It will take effect in July, and then the enforcement phase will come around in October, so that gives businesses the time to adjust,” says Ranee Randby from the Knox County Public Health Office.

The Tennessee Department of Health will inspect for smoking at restaurants during twice yearly random inspections.

Each offense will result in a $50 fine.

Back at the bistro, Martha Boggs says her smoke free policy has not only resulted in more business, but happier patrons and healthier employees. "The positives outweighed the negative. A hundred to one."

The smoking ban is the second of two major pieces of anti-tobacco legislation passed this year.

Lawmakers also agreed to more than triple the tax on a pack of cigarettes to 62 cents, mostly to fund increased education spending.