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Restaurants follow smoke-free trend

| Monday, July 23, 2001, 12:00 p.m.

More and more restaurants are going smoke-free, bucking the notion that excluding smokers would be bad for business.

There are 66 Allegheny County restaurants - mostly cafes and delis - listed on the American Cancer Society's Smoke-Free Dining Guide - more establishments than ever before.

William Godshall, executive director of SmokeFree Pennsylvania, feels he's won a battle by having most companies institute smoke-free policies indoors.

'Bars and restaurants are the battleground now,' he said. 'Tobacco companies have conceded most everything else to us. I'm not aware of one location in the state of Pennsylvania that serves alcohol that is smoke-free. That's an area we haven't cracked.'

Bars and restaurants are exempted from state and local laws that control or ban smoking in public places.

George Aiken felt immense pressure from non-smokers to make the Downtown restaurant he owns near Market Square smoke-free not long ago.

The same is true for the Georgetowne Inn, another restaurant he owns on Mt. Washington, though smoking is still allowed in the bar there.

'We were forced to do it by the non-smokers,' he said. In Pennsylvania, non-smokers outnumber smokers three to one. 'If you tell a smoker they can't smoke, they usually accept it. But for a non-smoker, if someone is smoking near them, they can't accept it. They're just more vocal.'

The Sewickley Cafe has been smoke-free from the day it opened almost three years ago, even though one of its owners is a 'closet smoker.'

'I may have lost 10 customers because I don't have a smoking area,' said co-owner Jon Olson. Smoke 'disguises the smell of the food. It bothers other people. I don't like to be sitting in a restaurant next to a table that is smoking.'

Even if smoke-free policies stretch further and further into public places, some smokers' rights advocates believe its propaganda that won't last.

'This is a cycle. We're nearing the end of a cycle of prohibition,' said Enoch Ludlow, president of the San Francisco-based FORCES, or Fight Ordinances to Restrict, Control and Eliminate Smoking.

Even though he lives in California, where smoking is banned in almost every public venue, 'I smoked in a restaurant the other day,' Ludlow said.

Marc Lukasiak can be reached at mlukasiak@tribweb.com or (412) 320-7939.

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