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Smoking will be banned in nearly every public structure, as well as private facilities with public access -- from Rich Stadium to churches and apartment lobbies -- under a law that county legislators plan to enact by Jan. 1.

The county law, announced today as a bipartisan, unanimous effort, is believed to be one of the state's strictest.

"Ours is much more comprehensive and bans smoking in places the state law never dreamed of," said Legislature Chairman Charles M. Swanick, D-Kenmore. "I believe this will become the model for Niagara and surrounding counties."

Swanick and his 16 colleagues said they unanimously would enact the law, to take effect Jan. 1.

County Executive Gorski was delighted with the Legislature's work in refining the original administration proposal, said Scott Brown, Gorski's spokesman.

The few exceptions include bars and taverns. But for the most part, smoking will be banned in nearly every building accessible to the public.

Smoking already is prohibited in many public places, but the county's new law dramatically expands the list -- from the workplace to places of worship to self-service laundries.

Places where smoking will be pro
hibited include outdoor arenas, public restrooms, elevators, libraries and a host of other facilities with public access.

The agreement announced today follows months of hearings held around the county and negotiations that involved smokers, non-smokers, restaurant owners and cancer researchers.

Bar and tavern owners, many operating on narrow profit margins, were actively involved in drafting of the legislation, said Legislator Edward Kuwik, D-Lackawanna.

The staff of Roswell Park Cancer Institute also played an active role.

"There has been a lot of give and take on both sides," Kuwik said. "This is a darned good law."

"I think this is probably one of the best laws we ever have drafted," Swanick added.

Exceptions and leeway include:

Bars and taverns are completely exempt.

Restaurants must limit smoking to 20 percent of total seating by Jan. 1 and become smoke-free by Jan. 1, 1998.

Bowling centers may permit smoking in concourse and bar areas if no minors are in the crowd, beginning Jan. 1, 1998. The presence of minors will result in an immediate ban on all smoking unless the minors are in an enclosed designated non-smoking area.

Bingo halls may permit smoking in the coming year as long as they have a non-smoking area conspicuously posted within the hall. By Jan. 1, 1998, they must confine smoking to a separate partitioned-off room, with outdoor ventilation.

Smoking outdoors in a public park will remain permissible, but not in a park building. Actors may smoke if smoking is part of a play, but theater-goers cannot.

The legislation also repeats prohibitions already in the state law against smoking in public transportation vehicles and waiting areas, hospitals, health-related facilities, museums, galleries, stores and public restrooms.

The County Legislature can waive the smoking ban on a particular building, but that will take 12 votes, as many as needed to approve a bond act. A general exception allows "any establishment" to "provide patrons a separate smoking room, designated, enclosed, vented to the out of doors and meeting other restrictions."

Private clubs may permit smoking at private functions, but when the doors are open to the public, rules for restaurants and bars apply.

Dr. Arnold Lubin, county health commissioner, had recommended a more stringent smoking ban but called the legislation "a good first step."

"I said no smoking in bowling alleys, period. No smoking in bingo halls, period. No smoking in restaurants, period. No smoking in bars, period," he noted. "That's where the areas of compromise were. The rest of it is what we proposed, and a lot of it is not new stuff."

No Smoking New places where smoking will be prohibited:

Open-air arenas of more than 5,000 seats. Includes North AmeriCare Park, Rich Stadium and the University at Buffalo's two stadiums.

Lobbies, hallways and other common areas in apartment buildings, condominiums and multiple residential facilities.

All enclosed areas in places of employment.

Entertainment facilities, including places for lectures and musical recitals.

Places of worship.

Government and municipal buildings.

Lobbies, hallways and common areas in multiple unit commercial facilities.

Polling places.

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