Bill may ban smoking in Pittsburgh eateries

In Pittsburgh’s restaurants, the question “Smoking or non?” may soon be a thing of the past.

Earlier this month, the Allegheny County Council met to explore public opinion on a bill enacting smoking restrictions. The council will vote on the bill at the end of this month. If it passes, restaurants and bars throughout the city will have to prohibit smoking in their establishments.

According to the council website, any individual who violates the mandates of the proposed ordinance will first be warned and then fined $25, $50, $100, and $200 for each subsequent offense. After that point, the Allegheny Health Department may seek additional penalties.

Businesses that disobey the smoking ban will face greater consequences: a warning for the first offense, a $250 fine for the second, and a $500 fine for a third offense, coupled with a possible license suspension. However, the proposed ordinance specifies that establishments that earn 85 percent or more of their money annually from tobacco sales, such as a cigar or hookah bar, will be exempt from the prospective prohibition.

It is unclear whether or not the bill will pass. A September 6 article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that while eight of 15 council members co-sponsored the bill — enough to pass by majority — the council will need a two-thirds majority to override a potential veto from County Chief Executive Dan Onarato. Onarato may reject the bill because it does not cover the entire state, a fact that could arguably put Allegheny County at an economic disadvantage.

The Tribune-Review article also showed that supporters of the bill at the council meeting saw public smoking as an unnecessary activity with health risks for those people in the vicinity of the secondhand smoke.

Locally, some students find secondhand smoke a nuisance. “I wore a sweater to Shady Grove Bar,” said Max Martinelli, a senior in history and mathematics. “After spending the night at a friend’s, my sweater reeked so badly of smoke the next morning that I couldn’t even wear it on the walk home.”

However, according to a September 6 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, those in opposition argue that smoking bans violate their civil liberties and infringe on the rights of small business owners.

“I’m not making anyone walk through that door,” said Eugene DePasquale, longtime bartender and owner of the Panther Hollow Inn on Forbes Avenue in Oakland. “It’s their decision to come in here.”

But not all workers are resentful of the ban.

“I would love it if they outlawed smoking. I can’t stand smoke,” said Paolo Rossi, a chef at Panther Hollow Inn. “I hate the smell — it gives me a headache and makes me sick. But I have to make a living.”

Meanwhile, DePasquale does not think a smoking ban will affect business at the bar/restaurant.

“The only reason they’re doing this is because they can’t solve any other problems and they want to seem like they’re accomplishing something,” he said.

Dan Gilmour, a senior in civil and environmental engineering and biomedical engineering, worked in a New Jersey bar over the summer and experienced some frustration with the ban.

“Even though New Jersey prohibited smoking in bars, we were always reminding people to take their cigarettes outside. Sometimes people just wouldn’t listen.”