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HEALTH BOARD ADOPTS POLICY FOR ANTI-SMOKING LAW

After two years of work and three revisions, the Niagara County Board of Health Thursday unanimously adopted an anti-smoking policy.

The policy still faces a public hearing and must receive approval from the County Legislature before it becomes law.

"This most recently revised plan does not meet every standard," Dr. Jean Wactawski-Wende, chairwoman of the board's Smoking Policy Committee, said, "but it does try to compromise on both sides."

However, she and Health Board President Linda H. Flessel qualified their acceptance of the revised policy saying they would not support any further changes.

"We have looked at this from every angle. If it is not supported as is, then I'm not sure our support is still there," said Ms. Wactawski-Wende.

The board noted that Legislator Lee Simonson, R-Lewiston, who heads the Legislature's Health Services Committee, was a strong supporter of the anti-smoking plan. Under the plan originally proposed by the Board of Health, smoking would not have been permitted in any public place, but under the new revisions there are exceptions.

Under the latest version, restaurants with a bar area would be able to have smoking in the bar area as long as it is not designated as a waiting area. In all restaurants, smoking would be allowed in 30 percent of a dining area until Dec. 1, 1999, and then a total smoking ban would be in effect for those areas. Fully enclosed smoking rooms still would be permitted.

Bars and taverns, which are defined as places that do 60 percent of their business selling alcohol over the bar, could still permit smoking.

Bowling centers could permit smoking only during league bowling hours, which is defined as after 6 p.m., and smoking would be permitted only in the concourse area. There would be no smoking in the settee area and no smoking during open bowling hours.

Bingo halls on school property are already prohibited from allowing smoking by state law. Other bingo halls would have to have at least one-third of their total seating capacity smoke-free within 180 days after the rules go into effect. Also separate smoking rooms could not be the only means of entry and exit to the facility nor to its restrooms.

Enclosed sporting arenas would have to prohibit smoking. However, there could be enclosed separate smoking rooms.

Places of employment, within 90 days of the policy taking effect, would have to prohibit smoking in all enclosed areas and in business vehicles operated by more than one person. This provision would be subject to labor agreements in the workplace.

The Legislature's Health Committee is expected to review the policy Wednesday, and Simonson has said the probable timetable is for the Legislature to hold a public hearing May 5 and enact the policy May 19.

A waiver committee is expected to be appointed by the Legislature if the Legislature enacts the law. That committee would have the power to grant a permanent or temporary waivers if compliance would cause undue hardship, if other factors would make compliance unreasonable or if the goals of the law could be met through the use of technology.

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