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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April, 2003, 22:57 GMT 23:57 UK
New York's withdrawal symptoms

By Emma Simpson
BBC correspondent in New York

Smoking is now confined to outside or at home
It could be the entrance to a flower shop, but the vases of colourful floral tributes mark the entrance to Guernica, a small, hip nightspot in Manhattan's East Village.

It was here last weekend that a bouncer was killed after trying to enforce New York's tough new anti-smoking laws.

Dana Blake had become embroiled in a row with a customer after he asked him to put out a cigarette.

The events of that night are still unclear and the authorities are playing down any connection between the death and the smoking ban.

But the incident has highlighted the clash between New York's traditional image as a goodtime "city that never sleeps" and new rules that critics say are intrusive and draconian.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an avid opponent of smoking, introduced the ban to protect bar and nightclub staff from the effects of second hand smoke.

Customers stay home

The ban, which came into effect at the end of March, covers almost every bar and restaurant in the city. But two weeks in, it's clear not all employees are happy.

This is America - we're not supposed to tell people what to do
Brenda Smith, bartender
"I've lost up to half of my income because of this," says Brenda Smith.

She is a bartender in the East Village and reckons she's losing several hundred dollars a week in tips because her customers are staying away.

"This is America - we're not supposed to tell people what to do. Where will it stop? Soon they'll be telling us we can't smoke in our apartments."

Her friend and fellow bartender, Fiona Kearney, agrees as they both enjoy a cigarette on the sidewalk before the evening shift begins.

"Our bars are open until 4am, but people are coming in around 7-10pm and because they can't smoke, they go home. It's terrible," says Fiona.

Neighbourhood frictions

They also have a new task added to their daily duties - collecting the cigarette butts outside their establishment.

Die-hard smokers can be seen inhaling in small clusters outside many venues and as the steamy hot summer season approaches, there could be friction ahead if these smokers become a neighbourhood nuisance.

But there are plenty of non-smokers who do support the new legislation.

According to the Center for a Tobacco-Free New York, an anti-smoking lobby, non-smokers outnumber smokers by four to one in the city.

Michael Bopp, the group's spokesman, says it is too soon to assess the impact of the ban, but he believes most New Yorkers are generally co-operating and will "come to realise the benefits".

No more reeking

But, as he admits, it isn't an easy change to deal with.

At another East Village bar known as 2A, just a block or two away from where Dana Blake died, bartender Macha Ross says some of her young customers are enforcing the ban, telling other patrons not to smoke.

Politically, she says she's uncomfortable with the new law. But she smiles when she admits there is at least one advantage: "It's nice to return home with clothes that don't reek of smoke."

Last smoke in New York
30 Mar 03  |  Americas
New York considers smoking ban
12 Aug 02  |  Americas
08 Feb 03  |  Medical notes
Profile: Michael Bloomberg
01 Jan 02  |  Americas
Bouncer 'killed over smoking ban'
14 Apr 03  |  Americas

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