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The Cambridge City Council passed a city-wide ban on smoking in restaurants and bars by a surprisingly lopsided 7-2 vote earlier this month.
The ban, which has been under intense discussion since the winter, will go into effect in October. For months, the battle lines had been firmly drawn, with four councillors in the pro-ban camp and five either opposed or on the fence.
Going into the vote, councillor David P. Maher—a leader of the pro-ban movement—knew that a fifth councillor, E. Denise Simmons, had been convinced to support the ban. The final two votes, those of Anthony D. Galluccio and Kenneth E. Reeves, came as a surprise to him, he said.
Maher said he hopes the number of cities which have now voted in local smoking bans—including Boston and, shortly after Cambridge’s ban was passed, Somerville—will put pressure on the state legislature to pass a state-wide ban currently under consideration.
Councillor Brian Murphy, another long-time proponent of the ban, said he and Maher—who co-chair the council sub-committee which held hearings about the measure—spent many hours going over the details of the ordinance with opponents and proponents alike.
“Its benefits are quite broad, but those who are in opposition have a more direct concern, which is the financial impact on restaurants and bars,” Murphy said.
Both of the councillors who voted against the ban have expressed concerns that Cambridge bars would lose business to establishments in nearby towns that don’t have smoking bans.
Maher said that response to the ban has been overwhelmingly positive, and even some staunch opponents have called him to say they understood where the push for a ban came from.
“When I explained that I was the past president of the American Cancer Society of the city of Cambridge, I think people clearly understood the role that I was going to take with this,” Maher said. “Sure there are going to be some people that are unhappy. At the end of the day, I think people respect the way the council came down on the issue.”
—LAUREN R. DORGAN
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