RESTAURANTS; smoking or non-smoking

Thursday, September 6th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Should Tulsa or the State of Oklahoma ban smoking in restaurants? Our neighbors in Arkansas are on the verge of passing such a law.

Right now, it is illegal to smoke in restaurants in the states of Utah and Vermont. Oklahoma is one of 28 states that either requires or allows restaurants to have designated smoking areas. But should government be allowed to impose such laws in the first place? News on Six reporter Heather Brooker talked with one business owner who says she's getting fired up about a smoke-free environment.

Smoking or non? The choice between sitting in the smoking section or non-smoking section will no longer be an issue at Chimi's near 81st and Lewis. The owner Nancy Gomez has decided to make it a "smoke-free" establishment. "5 years ago we didn't have an option to have a no smoking section we had to provide smoking sections for our customers. Now at least we have the options to serve both of our dining public.”

Diners like Scott Smith say the move to be smoke-free is a good one. "I'm not a smoker, I used to be a smoker but I’m not any more and it's offensive I don't want to smell it. It really bothers me and I know that it bothers other people with health problems." Even some smokers say it's not a bad idea. Duane Doss, "I really wouldn't think it'd be that bad. Just for the simple fact that there is non-smokers out there. I know how it is to be around a group of people where there's a lot of smoke in the area and I really don't like it so, it wouldn't bother me."

County health officials say second hand smoke is more dangerous than people realize. Neil Thurston with the Tulsa City-County Health Department says its good restaurants are taking the initiative to be smoke free. "Second hand smoke generally is not going to be good for the public's health." Nancy Gomez says sometimes there would be a line all the way out the door of people waiting for a seat in the non-smoking section. While the smoking section sat virtually empty. "We're really dictated by our customer, and we have a predominance of non-smoking clientele in this restaurant as you can tell, the smoking section is almost always empty." But now she hopes to fill those smoking seats with non-smoking customers.

Gomez says there are 3 other Chimi's restaurants in town that will still allow smoking. However, the 81st and Lewis location will be smoke free as of October 1st.