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Virginia Restaurants Countdown to Smoking Ban

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In just a few weeks, restaurants and bars across the state of Virginia will have to go smoke free.
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In just a few weeks, restaurants and bars across the state of Virginia will have to go smoke free.

In just a few weeks, restaurants and bars across the state of Virginia will have to go smoke free.

Governor Tim Kaine is trying to highlight some that made the change long ago --- including one in Fairfax.

Earlier this year Virginia joined 27 other states and the District of Columbia by enacting a smoking ban for restaurants and bars.

Kaine says while this may have been a difficult step for a tobacco-producing state, the health risks of allowing smoking in a restaurant are unique.

"There will be a concentration [of smoke] that is 5 to 6 times greater than in a house or other business where smoking is allowed," he said.

Kaine spoke inside El Pueblo, a restaurant in Burke, Virginia.

Owner Ana Benitez says El Pueblo has been smoke free since 2002, and though some patrons still ask if they can light up inside the doors they don't actually leave when she tells them no.

"They still say," she said. "If they want to step outside and have a cigarette, it's their choice."

The Virginia Department of Health says 70 percent of the states fast-food and full-service restaurants are now smoke free. It says secondhand smoke is responsible for as many as 1000 adult deaths per year in Virginia.

Jonathan Wilson reports...

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