Judge Strikes Down N.Y. Ban on Smoking as Unconstitutional

Associated Press

A judge on Friday struck down as unconstitutional a set of sweeping regulations that would have limited smoking in most restaurants, workplaces and other public buildings in New York state beginning May 7.

The regulations, touted as among the most stringent in the country, would have banned smoking in taxis, food markets, banks, auditoriums and courthouses, and limited smoking to designated areas in workplaces, larger restaurants, schools and other public places.

The state Public Health Council issued the regulations in February.

Jurisdiction Questioned

But Justice Harold Hughes ruled in trial-level state Supreme Court that the issue was not whether smoking should be banned, but that such widespread restrictions should be imposed by the Legislature, not by the council.

State officials said they would appeal, and lawyers for both sides said the case would likely go to New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals.

State Health Department spokesman Peter Slocum said that as part of the appeal, the state would ask permission to enforce the regulations while the court battle continues.

The Public Health Council adopted the regulations after months of public hearings and over the objections of the tobacco industry and groups representing restaurants and other businesses.

The only places exempt from the regulations were homes, bars, hotel rooms, tobacco stores, restaurants with 50 or fewer seats, conventions and private social functions.

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