By Joby Winans, PIO, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department
On November 29, 2010, El Gaucho Tacoma agreed to a permanent injunction that bans smoking in its Tacoma VIP Lounge. “We see this as an important step for the health of Washington State residents, most of whom don’t smoke, and who overwhelmingly voted to approve Washington’s Smoking in Public Places Act,” said Anthony Chen, MD, MPH, Director of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.
In 2005, 63% of Washington voters passed Initiative 901, the Smoking in Public Places Act, which prohibits smoking in public places, and places of employment, including restaurants, bars, and taverns.
Since this act was ratified in 2006, the Health Department has received more than 500 complaints about violations and sent more than 100 letters seeking compliance with the act. Most reported violations of the act involved smoking within 25 feet of a doorway or window. After Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department inspectors observed patrons smoking inside El Gaucho’s VIP Lounge Health Department staff met with the owners to discuss the observed violations of the state law. When the owners failed to comply with several requests, and a letter of compliance from the Health Department, they were served with an injunction to stop allowing smoking in the lounge. On April 23, 2010 a Pierce County Superior Court issued a preliminary injunction against El Gaucho Tacoma and the VIP Lounge.
“State law gives responsibility for protecting the public from tobacco smoke to public health departments,” said Dr. Chen. “When we found that the VIP Lounge was still allowing smoking after being informed they were violating the law, we felt we had to take the next step. Reducing exposure to tobacco smoke helps prevent heart and lung disease.”