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Tobacco Sales Out at Disney; Smoking Next?

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Walt Disney Co. has banned all tobacco sales at Disneyland and its four Florida theme parks in a likely precursor to outlawing smoking at the parks except in a few designated areas.

The Burbank-based entertainment giant, which operated a tobacco shop at Disneyland until 1990, has gradually tightened restrictions in recent years as public tolerance of smoking declined.

Currently customers may light up while wandering the park or sitting on a bench but not indoors or in outside areas such as lines where they are near nonsmokers.

Following a policy first implemented at Walt Disney World in Florida, Disneyland halted all tobacco sales last month, workers said. Smokers previously were directed to the Market House shop on

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Main Street or Pieces of Eight in New Orleans Square, where cigarettes were hidden under the counters.

Tobacco still is sold at nearby Disney properties: the Disneyland Hotel and Disneyland Pacific Hotel.

Employees in Anaheim and Florida said they next expect the parks to create a few, limited smoking areas, with tobacco use banned everywhere else. “We’ve heard that it’s in the pipeline, coming this way from Florida,” one Disneyland worker said. "[Attractions boss] Paul Yeargin has been talking about it.”

Bill Warren, a spokesman for Walt Disney World in Florida, said cigarette sales ended at the complex’s Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios and Animal Kingdom parks earlier this year, although tobacco is sold at the company’s hotels, restaurants, clubs and other facilities.

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As for reports that further restrictions on in-park smoking could take effect early next year, Warren said, “We’re not prepared to make an announcement right now.”

The moves could well influence attitudes toward tobacco throughout the amusement park industry. While most parks ban smoking indoors and in lines for attractions, tobacco is still sold inside many parks, including the two that Universal Studios operates in Orlando, though not at its Hollywood Hills park.

Officials at Premier Parks, which operates the Six Flags chain, couldn’t be reached for comment. Nor could officials at Knott’s Berry Farm, although an executive at its parent company, Cedar Fair LP, said tobacco sales have been banned at Cedar Fair’s flagship Cedar Point park in Sandusky, Ohio.

The tobacco crackdown comes against a backdrop of increasing hostility toward smokers and controversy over the effects of secondhand smoke, which some studies suggest is more dangerous than the filtered fumes inhaled by smokers.

Some of smokers’ last refuges have disappeared in recent years as bans took effect on domestic airline flights and in California bars and casinos. Smokers may still light up at some lounges in Disney’s Florida resorts, Warren said.

Except for some European visitors, most smokers at Disneyland have accepted restrictions willingly, the employee said. But recent postings on a pro-smoker Internet group complained that park employees force smokers to extinguish cigarettes any time nonsmokers are near, and one woman said she had vacationed in Las Vegas instead of Anaheim because of the restrictions.

When Disneyland opened in July 1955, customers walking through its Main Street area on their way to the various “lands” passed a tobacconist with a wooden Indian outside. As late as 1976, a company guide to Main Street touted the shop’s “vast selection of smoking materials and many unusual blends of tobacco.”

But in June 1990, the tobacco shop closed. Five years later, an entry in the Disney Encyclopedia of Baby & Child Care carried a lengthy warning about the dangers of side-stream smoke--the smoke directly off the tip of a cigarette--citing studies indicating that it “contains twice as much tar and nicotine and three times as much carbon monoxide as mainstream [smoke].”

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About that time, ashtrays disappeared from beside trash cans and outside attractions at Disneyland. And when Disney launched its cruise line in Florida last year, the ships were designated as nonsmoking except for a few areas in lounges and on open-air decks.

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* TOBACCO RULING

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