Morning Sentinel
Smoking banned at outdoor dining areas
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Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel 06/16/2009

AUGUSTA -- Smoking will be banned at all outdoor dining areas starting in September -- a move Gov. John Baldacci described as consistent with his efforts to make Maine a healthy state.

"It's been my goal to make Maine the healthiest state in the nation," Baldacci said. "To achieve this goal, we must continue making headway in reducing tobacco use."

Rep. Joan Cohen, D-Portland, and her husband, former Portland Mayor Jim Cohen, celebrated passage of the bill Monday at a signing ceremony in Baldacci's office in Augusta.

The city of Portland first passed this type of ban before the law carried the prohibition statewide.

"I'm happy to say that, during beautiful summer days, Maine people will no longer have to make the unfortunate choice of dining inside or choosing to be outside and inhaling smoke," Joan Cohen said.

Maine is the third state in the country to ban smoking in outdoor dining areas, said Ed Miller, executive director of the American Lung Association of Maine. The ban, which will take effect Sept. 12, follows prohibition of smoking in indoor dining areas 10 years ago and a ban on smoking in bars five years ago.

"I think it's going to be a very well-received law in Maine, particularly by some of our tourists who come here to experience the clean, fresh air," Miller said.

Baldacci said other recent anti-smoking laws have included a ban on smoking in cars when children are present and a new law this year prohibiting smoking on state park beaches. Also, the state has raised the tobacco tax in recent years, the governor said.

The new law bans smoking on a restaurant patio, deck or other outdoor dining area.

"This bill is another tool in our arsenal to protect children and adults in outdoor eating areas," Baldacci said.

Miller said secondhand smoke is still considered dangerous, even outside.

"It's not safe to just be sitting on a deck outside and assume you're not at risk," he said.

Susan Cover -- 620-7015

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