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Clearing the smoke


Perhaps you've recently had this happen: At a bar, somebody sitting next to you taking a drag from a cigarette has said ruefully, "You know, they're going to ban smoking in bars soon." The real story isn't quite that extreme. A bill introduced in the state House by a Gainesville Republican will gradually increase the percentage of nonsmoking seats that restaurants must offer.

Right now, a restaurant can allot smokers up to 65 percent of its seating. The new bill would allow only 50 percent of a restaurant to be smoking as of Oct. 1, and the following year the amount of smoking seats could be no more than 35 percent. And even small establishments would be required to comply.

This is nothing like California's total ban of smoking in bars and restaurants. Or is it? California also went through a similar gradual reduction of smoking sections before enacting the ban in 1995.

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