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NEW YORK -- On the eve of the year's biggest party night, Mayor Michael Bloomberg approved one of the nation's toughest anti-smoking laws. The smoking ban, affecting nearly every public indoor space in the city, takes effect March 30, giving smokers one last New Year's Eve to light up in most bars and restaurants.
Smokers claim the law violates their rights, and retailers say it will drive them out of business. But Bloomberg, a former smoker, said protecting nonsmokers from secondhand smoke is paramount.
"I don't think there's anything that any of us who have been elected to serve the people will do in our entire lives that will have the kind of impact that this legislation will have," Bloomberg said at a press conference here yesterday. "This will literally save thousands of lives."
The few exceptions include cigar bars, private clubs and specially ventilated smoking rooms in bars that employees do not enter.
Convenience store and deli owners in the city expressed concern that cigarette sales will plummet, especially since the nation's highest tobacco tax already has smokers paying $7.50 per pack. "We are basically giving up on the category," Sam Jabril, owner of Jesse's Deli in Brooklyn told CSNews Online. "Our sales have already dropped 25 percent. I can't see how this law could possibly make things any better."
ABOVE: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg