Controversial county smoking ban passes

The Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health Wednesday voted to approve a controversial ban that prohibits smoking in all county venues including restaurants, bars, casinos and bowling alleys.

If the ban survives legal challenges, it would be the first one of its kind in the state and may serve as an example other governments would follow.

The ban had plenty of comments from both sides. Business owners say they are worried that many customers would stop visiting smoke-free facilities. Supporters say it works the other way too: They often would not patronize a smoky business.

Five other states have similar bans, including California and New York.
A Washington state law enacted in 1985 specifically makes restaurants and bars exempt from anti-smoking bans, and Pierce County may have to fight a challenge on those grounds.

The Seattle-King County Public Health Department had a similar attempt in 1998, but stopped its efforts after a preliminary legal opinion that the rule would be illegal under state law.