Smoking Ban, Stricter DWI Standard Signed Into Law
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Bills to ban smoking at New York City bars and restaurants and to toughen the state’s drunk driving standard were both signed into law Monday.
“This law does not legislate morality,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who pushed for the legislation as a worker health issue, said as he signed the bill at City Hall. “This law does not take away anyone's rights. This law allows working people to earn a living in a safe workplace so they can provide for their families.”
The ban will take effect March 30, barring people from lighting up at virtually every bar, club and restaurant in the five boroughs. Violators will face fines from $$200 to $$400.
“We hope and believe that this bill will not have a negative effect on businesses and will not be used as a tool to punish nightlife or bars or restaurants or anyone else who is doing legitimate business and making sure that their employees are safe," said City Council Speaker Gifford Miller.
Exemptions to the ban include the city's seven existing cigar bars, sidewalk cafes with special outdoor smoking areas and bars willing to build separate smoking rooms with their own ventilation systems. In addition, establishments with no employees other than the owners or private clubs where only members work may still allow smoking.
“I am confident that New York City will establish a new reputation as the smoke-free capital of commerce, fine dining, nightlife, entertainment and tourism,” said Donald Distasio, the CEO of the American Cancer Society. “For as long as I can remember, this moment has been a dream of ours.”
Meanwhile, Governor George Pataki signed a measure lowering the blood-alcohol limit for drivers in New York to .08 percent. The new standard will take effect July 1.
The previous DWI standard of .10 percent was set 30 years ago. An average-sized man would exceed the new threshold after four drinks in an hour, and the average woman would be legally drunk from two to three drinks.
New York joins 31 other states that already have the lower limit. The change makes New York eligible for $$6.5 million in federal aid next year and gives the state the opportunity to recover more than $$20 million in federal incentives missed by not doing it sooner.
The federal incentives will become penalties for states starting in October 2003, in the form of reduced highway funding.