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California spoils us with non-smoking restaurants
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It was about two years ago to the day when we spent the holidays visiting family on the East Coast.

Entering a restaurant in Frederick, MD., we had the choice of being seated in the smoking or no-smoking area.

Those options caught me a bit off guard.

I hadn’t heard of a smoking section at a public place for some years.

In California, we’re accustomed to smoke-free public areas. Say what you want about this law but the idea here is to get smokers to cut down on their habit.

And it’s helped somewhat, according to the Field Research Group. In a survey conducted in 2004, 69 percent of current smokers said smoke-free areas helped reduce their usage of cigarettes.

A few places locally have gone one step further by not allowing smoking anywhere near the premises.

Take Romano’s Macaroni Grill and St. Joseph’s Medical Center, for example.

The San Joaquin County Public Health Services recently recognized these two local venues for adopting smoke-free policies.

The Macaroni Grill, a popular north Stockton restaurant, was lauded for offering clean open-air patio dining.

“The decision to offer smoke-free dining has a positive effect on the health of restaurant customers and employees,” said Twlia Laster of the Saving Our Legacy Project, a program of the American Lung Association in Sacramento.

For two weeks, she worked with the Macaroni Grill management on adopting a policy that restricts smoking in its open-air patio. In turn, the restaurant management received a Certificate of Appreciation at a Smoke-Free Day event for promoting the new policy to its customers.

St. Joseph’s Medical Center, meanwhile, has restricted smoking everywhere along the six-block long site. This prohibits hospital staff, visitors and patients from smoking on hospital grounds.

Lodi Memorial Hospital also has a similar-type policy adopted more than a year ago.

Meanwhile, New Year’s resolutions are among those long-standing traditions that date back to the Babylonians.
For many of us, this time of year means setting goals to better ourselves.

And you can bet some folks will once again use the start of 2009 to try to kick the smoking habit.

While the habit may be a hard one to quit for some, at least we have those smoke-free areas around here to make some of those decisions a lot easier.

After my last East Coast visit, I can now say that I greatly appreciate smoke-free places.

At least the Frederick eatery offered options to its patrons.

The very next day, we went to a nearby service organization lodge with no such luck. The place was blanketed with second-hand smoke.

Looking back, it’s really hard to believe that my senses were once accustomed to this unhealthy environment. I can still remember a time not too long ago when people smoked at their desk inside the work place, at the super market, or at an arena or stadium in the middle of a sporting event.

I don’t miss those days.