Saturday, September 20, 2003

County says smokers have no right to light

The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - Bar and restaurant owners are not entitled to extend smoking rights to their customers, the Urban County Government and the health department argued in responding to a lawsuit filed over the city's smoking ban.

"The law is actually precise in what is or is not a legal right," said David French, an attorney representing the Fayette County health department. "Smoking is not one of your rights."

French said business owners are not free from government interference. For example, they must follow rules on how much they must pay their workers and obey laws that prohibit discrimination.

His comments mirrored a fundamental philosophy championed by anti-smoking advocates, who in July persuaded the Urban County Council to sign off on Kentucky's first ban on public smoking. It would eradicate smoking in naarly all public buildings, including eateries, taverns and pool halls.

The joint response is intended to deflect a motion made last week to halt the Sept. 29 start of the ordinance. The Lexington-Fayette County Food and Beverage Association - a group of bar, restaurant and nightclub owners - filed the lawsuit last week.

Both sides will be heard before Judge Laurance VanMeter on Tuesday in Fayette County Circuit Court.

After reading a copy of the document, the association's attorney would not respond to the specific points. "Nothing in their argument surprises us, and we still feel very strong about our argument," attorney John Walters said.

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