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Tobacco Group Campaigns to Head Off Bar Smoking Ban

February 21, 1996|DON LEE

The National Smokers Alliance today is launching a campaign in California aimed at stopping a state law that will ban smoking in bars starting next year.

The organization--based in Alexandria, Va., and funded mainly by tobacco companies--says it will mail posters and petitions to more than 5,000 bars and taverns in the state.

By informing bar owners and amassing signatures of support from customers, the group hopes to find backing in the Legislature to change the state's year-old anti-smoking law.

The ban, one of the strongest in the nation, prohibits smoking in most indoor workplaces, including restaurants. For now, the law exempts free-standing taverns as well as bars in restaurants. But that grace period expires in January.

Some bar operators, fearful of losing business, welcomed the campaign. The ban "will kill our business," said Joe Tramte, a longtime bartender at Molly Malone's tavern in Los Angeles.

The National Smokers Alliance, formed in 1993 largely as a result of ever-stringent anti-smoking laws, says it has 3 million members, including 400,000 in California. Its corporate sponsors, which number fewer than 50, include tobacco firms such as Philip Morris Cos. and Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. as well as Fluor Daniel Inc. of Irvine.

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