By Donovan Slack, Globe Correspondent, 6/10/2003
CAMBRIDGE -- After Oct. 1, Cambridge bars will no longer be able to lure Bostonian bar and restaurant patrons with ''We're Still Smoking'' slogans.
After months of contentious debate, Cambridge city councilors last night voted to join Boston and 76 other Massachusetts communities in banning smoking in all workplaces, including restaurants and bars. The measure, which passed 9 to 2, covers about 75 bars and restaurants and 25 private clubs, which will have to post No Smoking signs.
Bars and restaurants caught violating the ban will face fines of $25 for the first offense, $50 for the second and $100 after that. The ban will be enforced by police, city inspectors, and employees of the License Commission and Health Department.
Councilors said they hoped the move would put more pressure on the Legislature, where a statewide ban passed the Senate last month and, if embraced by the House, could pass with the state budget before month's end.
''What's going to happen is there's going to be a critical mass of communities like Cambridge that will lead to a greater likelihood of a statewide ban passing,'' City Councilor Brian Murphy said.
He said the Cambridge ban could force bars and restaurants that oppose outlawing smoking to support a statewide ban, given the prospect of losing customers to other communities.
''Now that it affects them, they are suddenly advocates for a statewide ban,'' he said.
Passage of the Cambridge ban marks the end of a nine-month battle for the hearts and minds of a handful of councilors. For months, Councilor E. Denise Simmons represented a deciding vote and held off passage of the initiative, saying she wanted to investigate how it would affect Cambridge bars and restaurants and how a ban could best be implemented.
But last night, Simmons said that after months of discussion with officials, business owners and the public, she came prepared to cast her vote in support of the ban -- pending a few amendments.
Among the changes, the implementation date was moved from December to October to coincide with plans for a ban in neighboring Somerville, and private clubs were added to ''level the field,'' Simmons said.
Once she changed her vote, so did Councilors Anthony D. Galluccio and Kenneth E. Reeves. Dissenting votes were cast by Mayor Michael A. Sullivan, who was worried about smokers littering city sidewalks, and Councilor Timothy J. Toomey Jr., who believed the smoking ban was within the purview of state rather than local government.
Dozens crowded into Cambridge City Hall last night to air their views, some wearing neon-green ''Clean Air'' stickers, others waving ''Smoking bans are fascist'' signs, while people on both sides waved their fists.
''Life is hard,'' William Rosenfeld began, speaking during a nearly two-hour public comment period. ''For working people and retirees like me, there aren't many simple pleasures we can afford.''
The 79-year-old smoker went on to extoll the virtues of coffee and a cigarette. ''A marvelous combination!'' he exclaimed, then: ''I know it's a despicable habit, but it's legal, and we do it.''
One Washington Street resident waved a wad of dollar bills, saying, ''I have money to spend, and I want to do it in a place that's smoke free.''