New Hampshire to Ban Smoking

New Hampshire will soon ban smoking in bars and restaurants, becoming the last state in New England to do so.

The House approved a bill Thursday imposing the ban after a similar bill died in the Senate last year. Gov. John Lynch has said he will sign it, and it will take effect 90 days after he signs it.

More than a dozen states and hundreds of cities and counties around the country ban smoking in restaurants, bars or both.

Supporters say the ban is needed to protect workers and customers from the health risks of secondhand smoke.

"Employees should not be forced to sign away their health to earn a living," said Rep. Tara Reardon, a Concord Democrat. "This bill is not antismoker. It is antismoke."

Opponents argued the state should instead educate the public about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke. They also said restaurant and bar owners should decide when or if to ban smoking, not the state.

"The last time I checked, it was a legal activity," said Rep. John Hunt, a Republican.

An amendment to ban smoking in social and religious organizations and another to exempt businesses with ventilated smoking rooms both failed.

New Hampshire already bans smoking in public places such as offices, schools and hospitals.

Also Thursday, legislators in Tennessee sent Gov. Phil Bredesen a bill that would ban smoking in most indoor workplaces, including restaurants but not bars. State Health Commissioner Susan Cooper said he planned to sign it.