Ready or not, smoking ban in effect

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Ashtrays were no longer on tables at Webb’s Watering Hole Thursday in preparation for a law that goes into effect today.

State legislators voted in February to ban smoking in bars, restaurants, stores and workplaces.

“We’ve put sand buckets outside, if people do want to smoke,” said Webb’s Watering Hole waitress Ashley Sink.

The law imposes a $100 fine for the first violation, $200 for a second violation and $500 for a third violation within a year. Exceptions include private clubs, cigar bars, retail tobacco stores, hotel and motel rooms and casinos.

Linda Teakell, of the Curry Citizens Concerned About Tobacco, said she is ecstatic about the law.

“I worked very hard, along with other volunteers — people who really, really care about this issue,” she said. “I think it’s one of the best things that has ever been done for the health of New Mexico.”

Bar patrons at the Prince Lounge and Webb’s Watering Hole have said they would not be coming back if they could not smoke, employees said.

“It’s going to be really (bad) for us waitresses, because this is our living,” Sink said. “They’re making an establishment where people have been able to smoke for the past 50 or 60 years and they’re telling them they can’t smoke in here so a lot of our older crowd … have just told us they won’t be back.”

Teakell said bar owners’ fears about their loss of customers is ridiculous.

“Over 50 percent of America is smoke free,” she said. “What they’re saying has just absolutely been shown to be totally, indisputably false. People are not going to start staying at home and not go and drink because they can’t smoke.”

According to the law, local police, fire and sheriff’s departments will enforce the act. Clovis Police Chief Dan Blair said police will deal with the law based on complaints.

“The law gives us the authority to go inspect but at this time we will do it by a complaint basis,” he said. “If people call in reference to a violation, it will be a priority call and we will respond to them.”