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Restaurant industry pushes back against Atlanta’s proposed indoor smoking ban

The proposal would ban vaping and cigarette smoking inside public places.

ATLANTA — The Atlanta City Council is considering an ordinance that would ban smoking inside all public places – including Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, which has indoor smoking lounges.

Council members heard from people for and against the ban at Wednesday night’s work session.

While many advocated for the ban, vape shop owners told the council it would hurt their business. The Georgia Restaurant Association believes it would also impact well-known restaurants across Atlanta that allow patrons to smoke inside.

“The Georgia Restaurant Association does not have a position on smoking indoors itself, however, we do have some issues with this legislation,” said Karen Bremer, CEO of the Georgia Restaurant Association. “Although the number of smoking establishments have decreased over the years, we still have businesses in Atlanta that depend on a certain business model.”

Georgia passed a “smoke-free” law in 2005 that allows restaurants to permit smoking if people under 18 are prohibited, or if smoking areas are in private rooms with separate ventilation units and air cleaning devices. Atlanta’s new proposal would allow for some exceptions from the ban – like hookah bars and cigar lounges.

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“I’m not going to debate the science of this – smoking is bad for you … but it’s still legal to smoke tobacco products in the U.S.,” Bremer said. “The reality is, there are not that many restaurants or establishments that still allow smoking, but there is still a clientele that frequents those businesses … let the folks who have invested in this business model satisfy their customers that chose to frequent a place that allows smoking.”

If passed, employers and facilities that allow smoking and violate the law could face a $100 fine for a first violation and up to $200 for each additional violation within a year.

The legislation would have to pass out of committee then head to the full council for a vote. No vote has been scheduled.

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