Protect Virginia's Hookah Lounges

On March 9th, 2009, Governor Tim Kaine signed into law a ban on smoking in Virginia restaurants as an amendment to the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act. This amendment requires all restaurants to provision a non-smoking section structurally separated from the smoking section. While the intent of the law is well taken in its attempt to provide families and patrons with a means to enjoy smoke-free dining in the majority of restaurants; the law provides *no* provisions to exempt establishments where smoking is an implicit feature of that establishment, and where the sale and consumption of tobacco and tobacco products is inherent to the business itself. In short, citizens who wish to be free of smoke know well not to patronize establishments such as hookah lounges or cigar bars as these are smoking establishments by their very nature. The hookah lounge is a cultural mainstay of Mediterranean and Near Eastern culture and provides a venue for multiple cultures to intermix, mingle, and build lasting bonds. With the difficult economic times we are facing, small business owners are especially burdened by the tens of thousands of dollars required to make renovations -- for areas of their business that will generate no revenue and where no customers will be drawn to sit. Several hookah lounges have been forced out of business as they cannot survive in this economy on pure tobacco sales, nor can they survive by foregoing their tobacco sales for pure food revenues. These small businesses are being forced to close their doors putting the economic stability of their lives, families, and the lives and families of their employees at risk. Please join this cause and help us let the Virginia Legislature know that you support the civil rights of Virginia citizens to make their own choices when it comes to their health; that you reject the direct attack that this law -- in its current form -- takes on Mediterranean and Near Eastern cultures; and that you demand change in order to protect small businesses, business owners, their families, and the lives and families of their employees from being shut down by unnecessary expenses to comply. The average hookah lounge owner is being forced to spend in excess of $30,000 in order to make renovations on their premises, for areas of their restaurant that will see no use. Please help us send a signal to Richmond, knowing that we demand this law be changed to align its true intentions without destroying the lives of so many small business owners. Please join our cause as a petition for our legislature to affect change!
Positions 1. Hookah lounges are, by their nature, a voluntary smoking establishment. 2. Hookah lounges provide a venue for a mixture of cultures to engage in dialogue and exchange. 3. As small business, hookah lounges provide economic benefits to their communities in jobs and revenue. 4. Citizens should have the right to choose their venues of enjoyment without undue encroachment by the State. 5. The Virginia Legislature should amend the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act to allow these establishments to exist without modification.

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