Governor snuffs smoking

Staff and wire reports

SANTA FE — Smoking will be banned across New Mexico in bars, restaurants, stores and other workplaces under legislation signed Tuesday by Gov. Bill Richardson.

Danny Tipton, manager at Kripple Creek Restaurant in Clovis, said the customer and staff reaction has been negative so far.

“We really don’t like it,” Tipton said. “It takes another right of choice from the general public. It should be everybody’s right to choose whether they want to smoke in a restaurant.”

Though he’d never done research, Tipton said it was a safe assumption that Kripple Creek had gained extra business because it was one of a handful of restaurants in Clovis with a smoking section.

The governor — an occasional cigar-smoker — said the ban’s supporters made a last-minute push to persuade him to sign the legislation. He said he got “several hundred” calls.

Laura Leal, who owns both Leal’s restaurants in Clovis, said the restaurants were mixed with smoking policies. The location on Prince Street was non-smoking, while the location on Mabry had a smoking section.

“We have a lot of customers who go to the smoking one because they enjoy a cigarette after their meal,” Leal said. “I knew (the ban) was probably coming, but we were just trying to please the customers as best as we could.”

Thirteen New Mexico communities, including Santa Fe and Albuquerque, have imposed smoking bans. The new law would allow cities and counties to have stronger ordinances, but not weaker ones.

The prohibition applies to any indoor workplaces or public places, including buses, taxis and other public transportation. Smoking would be allowed outside, but not near doors or windows.

There are exceptions to the prohibition. Among them: Retail tobacco stores, cigar bars, casinos, state-licensed gambling facilities, private clubs, smoking-permitted hotel and motel rooms, and one-person offices not generally open to the public.

Another exception, Tipton said, was a patio area.

“We think we can fix it where people can come in and out (of the patio) during bad weather,” Tipton said. “That’s something we’ve been looking at for a year or two, because we saw this coming back then.”