Law banning smoking in restaurants turns 10

For many of us, it seems like a lifetime ago when we were asked if we wanted to be seated at the smoking or non-smoking section in our local restaurant.

For Zachary and Matthew Metott, it was an actual lifetime ago. The Metott boys turn 10 years old this year and have never known a world where smoking was allowed in New York state restaurants. July 24th is the 10th anniversary of the Expanded Clean Indoor Air Act, most commonly known for prohibiting smoking in bars and restaurants.

The 2003 state law banned smoking in almost all workplaces, bars, restaurants, bowling facilities, taverns and bingo halls and protected millions of New Yorkers from daily exposure to second-hand smoke and the illnesses it causes.

When the Metott boys were asked their thoughts on having smoking and non-smoking sections in restaurants Matthew replied, “That’s just weird!” Zachary added “I’d wonder why they were doing that.”

Zachary and Matthew met at Vona’s Restaurant to talk with the Tobacco Free Network of Oswego County about this milestone. Vona’s was one of the first Oswego restaurants to go smoke-free, making the decision before New York even passed the Expanded Clean Indoor Air Act. The boys also had strong opinions on being exposed to smoke in restaurants.

“We wouldn’t want to go there to enjoy time with our family because it would hurt us or make our little sisters sick,” said Zachary.

A recent survey of bars and restaurants in Oswego County revealed that compliance with the law 10 years later is excellent. In fact, there was a 100 percent compliance rate at the time of the unannounced survey. Despite the success of this law and the countless lives that have been saved, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and kills more than 25,000 New Yorkers every year.

The U.S. Surgeon General characterizes youth smoking as a pediatric epidemic, and states that the evidence is clear that tobacco marketing causes youth to start smoking, and most start before they reach the age of 18.

“Smoking is still a problem in Oswego County and New York state as whole, particularly among teens,” said Abby Jenkins, Program Coordinator of the Tobacco Free Network of Oswego County. “Zachary and Matthew have never known a time when smoking was allowed in restaurants. Maybe the next generation of 10 year olds will never know a time when they were inundated with tobacco marketing.”

For more information about efforts to reduce smoking and protect youth from tobacco marketing, visit www.tobaccofreenys.org.

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