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Last Updated: Sunday, 30 March, 2003, 05:05 GMT 06:05 UK
Last smoke in New York
Patsy (actress Joanna Lumley) from the BBC's Absolutely Fabulous has a smoke and a drink in New York
More people will be popping outside for a smoke
The chat-up line "Could I have a light?" may need updating in New York's bars and nightclubs from Sunday as a strict ban on smoking comes into force.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has pushed through the prohibition in the face of resistance from proprietors and much scepticism among the Big Apple's estimated 1.3 million regular smokers.

The health-conscious ex-smoker running the City That Never Sleeps has approved fines of $400 for establishments found flouting the ban in a campaign which seems aimed at making America's business and entertainment capital the City That Never Smokes.

"This is like no-fun city," griped chain-smoker Willie Martinez, 37, as he puffed his way through the last hours of legal inhalation in an East Village bar.

I can't tell you how many dates with cute guys I've gotten by looking into his eyes while he lights me up
Cynthia Candiotti
Manhattan smoker
"First they cleaned up Times Square, then they said you couldn't dance in bars or drink a beer in the park. Now you can't even smoke when you go out on the town," he told the Associated Press news agency.

There is even talk of illicit "smoke-easies" popping up in an echo of the Prohibition era.

But Mr Bloomberg is adamant that people will welcome the cleaner air on a night out.

"Fundamentally, people just don't want the guy next to them smoking," he said.

"People will adjust very quickly and a lot of lives will be saved."

Cigs and the city

The ban, which came into force at midnight on Saturday (0500 GMT Sunday), affects 13,000 bars and restaurants which escaped a 1995 smoking ban on restaurants with more than 35 seats, as well as any other workplaces not covered by the previous law.

Smokers' City
Cigarette being lit up
NY is still home to Philip Morris USA and 30% of North America's cigarettes were once produced in the NY area
Now has some of the highest cigarette retail prices in the US
As well as fines, owners of offending establishments could eventually could have their business licenses suspended.

Smoker Mel Cannon predicted that the ban would not work, despite the relative success of a similar ban in California, which is now into its fourth year.

"I'm not a bit worried about it," he told Reuters news agency in a bar on Eighth Avenue.

"You're going to see it repealed in six months. By the time summer kicks in and they see how much damage has been done, Bloomberg will be doing the two-step back step."

On a barstool in Manhattan, 26-year-old Cynthia Candiotti was already looking back through the smoke-rings to romances conceived in tobacco.

"I can't tell you how many dates with cute guys I've gotten by looking into his eyes while he lights me up," she told AP.

"That's as good as smoking."

Then, reflecting on Sunday's imminent breath of cold, fresh air, she added:

"Smoking and boys have sort of always gone together. Smoking, I'll probably quit. Boys, that's a whole other matter."

The BBC's Nicola Kohn
"Any smokers left in Manhattan face a stark choice"

08 Feb 03 |  Medical notes
Profile: Michael Bloomberg
01 Jan 02 |  Americas
Fines for mobile use in NY cinemas
23 Nov 02 |  Entertainment

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