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Maine Bans Smoking in Restaurants

September 17, 1999

HALLOWELL, Maine (AP) _ Even before Maine’s restaurant smoking ban took effect, the air was clear at Bolley’s Famous Franks.

Donald Pooler, the owner of the nine-table eatery down the road from the state Capitol, left no doubt that he would let smokers light up right up to the 12:01 a.m. Saturday deadline.

After that, he acknowledged, many smokers will be upset by the new rule. ``But, to tell you the truth,″ he added, ``I think it will probably help business.″

Maine joins a small list of states prohibiting smoking in restaurants. The law, which authorizes $100 fines for restaurateurs or patrons who violate the ban, makes exceptions for stand-alone bars.

Vermont and Utah have similar laws, and California prohibits smoking in bars as well as restaurants. A number of cities also have imposed smoking bans in restaurants.

Across Maine, many restaurateurs jumped ahead of the law and posted their businesses as smoke-free, said Ed Miller of the American Lung Association’s Maine chapter.

In Eastport, America’s easternmost city, WaCo Diner owner Nancy Bishop said she spent ``a fortune″ to create a nonsmokers’ dining room overlooking Passamaquoddy Bay long before the law was imposed.

Now, the entire eatery will have to go smokeless, and some of the regulars are not happy. ``I will lose some customers,″ she predicted.

``What bugs me is the freedom of choice issue,″ she said. ``The government has got to stop somewhere legislating everything the individual does.″

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