AUGUSTA (AP) – Cheered on by supporters, Gov. John Baldacci signed a measure into law Tuesday that will prohibit smoking in bars.

The new law takes effect Jan. 1, 2004, and will move Maine closer to banning smoking in virtually all indoor public places.

Public health officials and advocates, along with sponsoring legislators, joined the first-term Democratic chief executive at a Cabinet Room bill-signing ceremony.

“Today I am signing into law a historic step toward providing cleaner indoor air to all Maine people,” Baldacci said. “This bill makes all lounges and taverns, pool halls and certain off-track betting facilities smoke free.

“Together with the previously signed bill that provides for smoke free bingo and beano halls, the 121st Legislature is providing cleaner indoor air for many of our public and workers who were previously not protected against secondhand smoke, a Class A carcinogen,” Baldacci said.

The governor said Maine stands to be the fifth state to mandate smokeless bars and that experience elsewhere demonstrates that “this law is actually good for business,” allowing establishments to retain most regular customers while attracting new ones.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Baldacci continued, “smokers are welcomed throughout the state of Maine. We simply ask that you leave your burning cigarettes at the door so that (your) health and the health of others around you will be better protected.”

As Baldacci began to read off the telephone number of a toll-free Tobacco Health Line – 1-800-207-1230 – the audience burst into cheers and applause.

The help line offers assistance on quitting smoking.

Among those credited by Baldacci for promoting passage of the legislation – An Act to Protect Workers from Secondhand Smoke and To Promote Worker Safety – were the Coalition on Smoking OR Health and the Partnership for a Tobacco Free Maine.

AP-ES-06-24-03 1205EDT

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