Once the smoking ban went into effect in Tennessee restaurants and bars had the option of going smoke-free or serving patrons 21 and older, but soon they might not have that choice.
“We’re here to take care of the people, not to take away their rights in privileges. That’s what they’re trying to do and that’s wrong,” says Paul Osterbrink, owner of Paul’s Oasis in West Knoxville.
Osterbrink is concerned about a proposal to expand the smoking ban to include all restaurants and bars, motels, hotels, businesses with garage door access, and businesses with three or fewer workers.
“There are plenty of places in Knoxville to go that are non-smoking. It would kill me. It would probably shut me down if they did that to me,” he says.
The advocacy group, Campaign for a Healthy and Responsible Tennessee, is behind the proposal.
They say the current law does not go far enough to protect workers from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.
While some hotels have already gone non-smoking, the Crowne Plaza in Downtown Knoxville has not.
The staff, however, is receptive to the outright ban.
“At the end of the day it’s really going to be a good choice for the business as a whole because the vast majority of our clientele are non-smokers,” says Courtney Kleiman, Guest Services manager at the Crowne Plaza.
The hotel has two floors where half of the rooms are non-smoking.
“We do have guests request to move probably quite frequently off acigarettes kent floor so it does affect them as well,” says Kleiman.
Supporters of the bans expansion are hopeful lawmakers will file a bill in January.
Campaign for a Healthy and Responsible Tennessee is also trying to eliminate preemption laws that prevent local governments from introducing their own smoking bans.
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