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Future of Cambridge City-Wide Smoking Ban Foggy

By Frank Dabek

STAFF REPORTER

Hopes of enacting a ban on smoking in Cambridge workplaces, including bars and restaurants, are fading even as surrounding communities enact their own bans.

The proposed ban, which has been before the city council for more than a month, has not yet been able to attract the five votes required for passage. In an interview after Monday’s council meeting, City Councillor Anthony D. Galluccio said that he doubted the issue would come to a vote. I “don’t know that [supporters of the ban] have the votes,” Galluccio said.

Galluccio and Councillor Denise Simmons appear to hold the deciding votes. Galluccio seems likely to vote against a city-wide ban; he has indicated that he would rather see the law enacted at the state or federal level. By exempting cigarette smoke from workplace safety regulations federal legislators “dropped the ball,” Galluccio said.

Opponents of the ban argue that it would adversely affect bar and restaurant owners. Galluccio said that it would be easier to vote for a “ban that has parity across the state.”

Simmons said that she is “dead in the middle” on the issue of the ban but based on her comments appears likely to vote against it. In an interview after Monday’s council meeting Simmons echoed arguments made by bar owners. “We’re asking [bar and restaurant owners] to absorb whatever cost without any knowledge,” she said.

Simmons said that she expects to make a final decision after seeing an upcoming report on the economic impact of the ban prepared by the city’s economic development committee. The ordinance committee will meet on May 14 to discuss the economic impact of the proposed ban.

Harold Cox, the city’s public health officer and one of the chief proponents of the ban said that he “feels very optimistic” about the prospects for passage of the ordinance. “It’s not a done deal until [the councillors] actually vote,” Cox said.

Councillors oppose smoking, ban

While their support for the city-wide smoking ban is undecided, both Simmons and Galluccio indicate in public statements that they oppose smoking on a personal level. Simmons identified herself as a “non-smoker” and said that she appreciates non-smoking bars.

Galluccio said that the money that would be spent enforcing a smoking ban “should go to anti-smoking efforts.”

Other councillors oppose the ban and oppose smoking. Councillor Ken Reeves said during debate at Monday’s council meeting that he would vote to ban cigarettes and smoking entirely in the city. During the same debate, however, he sharply questioned Councillor and Vice-Mayor Henrietta Davis on statistics she introduced that implied that a smoking ban would reduce heart attacks. Reeves is likely to vote against the ban.

Several communities surrounding Cambridge have already enacted their own smoking bans. Boston enacted a ban which will go into effect on May 5, and Brookline has also banned smoking in all bars and restaurants, according to Clean Air Works, an advocacy group headed by Cox.