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Commission considers public smoking ban

Local residents and business owners gathered Tuesday evening at Borough Hall to voice opinions on a proposal that would ban smoking in nearly all public buildings in Princeton Borough and Princeton Township.

The Princeton Regional Health Commission, which proposed the ordinance, heard arguments both in support of and in opposition to the ban. No decision will be reached on the matter until after a public hearing slated for next month.

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The proposed ordinance prohibits smoking in restaurants, bars, cabarets, taverns, workplaces, restrooms, lobbies, reception areas, hallways, elevators and all other public enclosed areas with the exception of retail tobacco stores.

"We are very concerned with the impact of smoking and secondhand smoke to our community and especially to the youth," health commission chair Robert Hendry said.

Grace Finden, commission vice chair, agreed."We prefer that people have as much choice as possible, but when choice affects someone's health, that's when the health committee feels it's time to step in and take action," she said.

Several people at the meeting stepped forward to support the ordinance as a preventative measure for diseases caused by secondhand tobacco smoke.

"I'd really be thrilled to know that I could come to Princeton . . . and enjoy life," said Connie Bauder, a resident of Cranbury, after sharing the story of how secondhand smoke caused her severe sinus irritation and illness.

Health risks

"Secondhand smoke is not merely a matter of inconvenience. It's a matter of breathing for me," said Donald Vandergiyt, a Princeton resident with a respiratory illness.

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"I don't feel that it is a luxury. I don't think it's a right. I think it's a necessity. It's a matter of life and death."

Restaurant and bar owners, managers and representatives at the meeting said they opposed the ordinance, claiming that it denies citizens the right of choice.

"I think this country and this town, more than anything else, is based on diversity and choice," Michele Ryan, owner of the Ivy Inn, said. She added that smokers make up 85 percent of her establishment's clientele.

On behalf of the Mercer County License Beverage Association, Bill Clearly said that recent improvements in indoor ventilation systems help disperse smoke. "The health threat that may have existed once isn't really a problem anymore," he said.

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Paul Budline, a resident of Princeton, said he fervently opposed the ordinance, arguing that the World Health Organization has found no correlation between lung cancer and secondhand smoke.

Responding to Budline, attorney Karen Bloomenfeld cited a WHO press release from March 1998 which stated that "passive smoking causes lung cancer in non-smokers."

Business impact

Evelyn Dries, who represents the American Cancer Association, said that environmental tobacco smoke is the third leading cause of preventable death. She also noted that banning smoking in bars and restaurants sometimes results in increased revenues because a higher percentage of non-smokers choose to patronize the establishments.

Jorge Armenteros, owner of Princeton's only tobacco store, "A Little Taste of Cuba," said in an interview yesterday, "I'm not happy I'll be the only establishment where you can smoke because I think it's unfair."

Cody Griggers '01 said that he does not expect the proposed ordinance to be a great inconvenience to himself and other students who smoke. "I just don't feel like it's going to be that big of a deal, even if it does happen," he said.

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