Video: Eat, drink, be merry, just don't smoke

By Tom Costello Correspondent
NBC News
updated 6/27/2006 7:22:26 PM ET 2006-06-27T23:22:26

Joe Barbera is convinced the county council in Howard County, Md., has just voted to put a lot of restaurant owners like him out of business.

The council is banning all smoking in bars and restaurants.

"They don't have enough time to change their business plan — they really don't have a prayer with this short turnaround time," Barbera says.

In Colorado, a statewide smoking ban goes into effect on July 1. Five hundred fifty bar and restaurant owners are suing to block the law, arguing it violates their constitutional rights.

"They don't have to come into my establishment if they don't want to be exposed to smoke," says bar owner Larry Cusulos.

"How do you prove somebody is going to lose their business until it happens?" asks James VonFeldt, another bar owner.

So far, 14 states and Washington, D.C., have enacted some form of smoking ban. But Tuesday's report from the surgeon general suggests those bans don't hurt business. In fact, there's compelling evidence that it's quite the contrary.

In New York City, which banned smoking in 2002, tax receipts and employment in bars and restaurants jumped more than 8 percent after the ban. Same in Providence, R.I., and El Paso, Texas.

In Atlanta, restaurant owner Jeff Landau says his family business has actually picked up since Georgia’s smoking ban went into effect last year.

"By and large, the overwhelming majority of our customers like the change in the law," Landau says.

And Americans are changing their habits. Ten years ago, a quarter of the population smoked. Today, it’s down to 21 percent, as the nation’s smoke begins to clear.

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