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Eatery goes smoke-free

November 21, 2002|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - It was a haze-free Wednesday at Ruby Tuesday for a group of diners saluting the restaurant for banning smoking.

Members of the Tobacco Free Washington County Coalition had lunch at the restaurant to publicize today's Great American Smokeout, a national event sponsored by the American Cancer Society.

Kim Rasch, a health educator with the Washington County Health Department, said the group chose Ruby Tuesday to support the restaurant's stance.

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The restaurant lost, on average, six or seven tables of customers a night after the ban went into effect on Sept. 25, General Manager Carolyn Gelhard said. At the same time, the wait for nonsmoking tables, which are typically more sought after, has decreased, she said.

Other Ruby Tuesday branches in Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia have banned smoking, too.

The ban also applies to employees at the Wesel Boulevard branch. They are not supposed to smoke while on duty, even if it's a quick break outside. Exceptions are allowed for those who work more than eight hours.

Gelhard said she was nervous that the policy might cause some employees to quit their jobs. None did. Instead, a few quit smoking, she said.

Eight representatives from the Tobacco Free Washington County Coalition - which includes the Washington County Board of Education, the Girl Scouts and the Washington County Health Department - ate together Wednesday.

Two were former smokers.

Ron Frew said he quit on Nov. 1, 1984, after about 25 years of smoking.

"The food tastes better," he said. "I can breathe. All my blood work is much better - blood pressure, cholesterol."

Frew sat next to Nell Stewart, who helps run the Health Department's Stop Smoking For Life program. She said she gave up her smoking habit after about 30 or 35 years.

"My general health felt better," she said. "I had less bouts with asthma and allergies - and I don't stink."

Stewart said she ate at Ruby Tuesday just once before because she has trouble sitting in a smoky room.

The Tobacco Free Washington County Coalition invited numerous restaurants to go smoke-free today. A handful joined the cause.

Roccoco, House of Kobe and the Old South Mountain Inn already prohibit smoking, according to Ann Baker, the program manager of the Washington County Health Department's Cigarette Restitution Fund.

Baker, who was not at the lunch, said there may be other smoke-free restaurants in the county, but they didn't respond to the invitation.

Nick's Airport Inn, Nicholas' at the Four Points Sheraton and the Gateway Crab & Seafood House agreed to prohibit smoking just for today, Baker said.

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