By Patricia O’Connor, Standard-Times staff writer
WAREHAM — Seated on one of the vinyl -covered stools that line the counter
at Prada’s restaurant, Steve Zabroski pushed away his dirty dishes, unfolded his
morning newspaper and fingered his pack of Kool 100s.
Mr. Zabroski is a regular at the Cranberry Highway eatery. About three times
a week he stops in for breakfast and, if his counter-mates voice no objections,
a cigarette or two.
But come Oct. 15, Mr. Zabroski and other smokers will no longer be able to
light up in any of Wareham’s public or private food service establishments, or
lounges or bars, as a smoking ban that was initially approved by the Board of
Health more than 18 months ago finally goes into effect.
“I have no problem with it,” Mr. Zabroski said of the pending ban. “But it
will hurt the businesses.”
Some restaurant owners fear that come Oct. 15, their smoking customers will
take their business elsewhere. However, there’s been surprisingly little outcry
from those business people about the proposed ban. The town’s health agent, for
example, said the Board of Health has not received any complaints or feedback
from restaurant owners since setting the date for the ban to go into effect.
Many restaurant owners interviewed for this story said they simply see no
point in voicing their objections. Since the Board of Health first began
discussing how to deal with secondhand smoke, they believed it was inevitable
that a smoking ban would be enacted, it was simply a matter of when.
“There isn’t much sense in our giving our opinions because our opinions
aren’t listened to by people in authority,” said one local restaurant owner who
has been in business in town for more than 30 years. “How many whacks can you
The town’s Board of Health has been mulling ways to address the problem of
secondhand smoke for more than two years.
In November 1998 the board approved a ban on smoking in the town’s eateries
and set Jan. 1, 1999, as the date that those new rules would go into effect.
Subsequently, the Board of Health twice voted to hold off on implementing the
ban. During that time they also added private clubs and function rooms — such
as those operated by fraternal organizations — to the list of establishments
that would be subject to the smoking ban.
Intermittently during that time period, the Board of Health also met with
groups of restaurant owners who had offered to work to find other ways to
address the Board of Health’s concerns over secondhand smoke by exploring other
options, such as the installation of air purification equipment.
However, no concrete proposals were put forth.
“Now we decided that certainly there had been enough time,” said Carl
Wakefield, the town’s health agent.
The decision to impose the ban in October was made in order to allow the
restaurant owners to get through the busy summer season prior to prohibiting
smoking in their establishments.
Mr. Wakefield said that decision is evidence of health officials’ concern for
the business owners’ ability to make a living.
He said he believes that there will be little negative economic impact on the
local eateries, and whatever business is lost to the ban will be sacrificed for
the sake of public health.
Katie Prada, who with her husband, Mel, has operated Prada’s for 35 years,
said her primary objection to the smoking ban is that it takes away business
owners’ ability to decide for themselves whether they choose to be a smoking or
“A good portion of our customers are smokers,” Mrs. Prada said, adding that
some mornings, about 80 percent of the patrons in the restaurant will be
“They’re taking away the rights of the business owners to make the decision
for themselves,” she said. “We can’t pay all the bills.”
Mr. Wakefield said he and other officials are mindful of the business owners’
plight, but he said the smoking ban shouldn’t be perceived as an economic issue.
Instead, it’s a matter of protecting the health of restaurant workers and
“Everything we read from other towns tell us it isn’t the end of the world as
far as their business is concerned. I think everything will be just fine
financially for the businesses,” Mr. Wakefield said. “I think this restaurant
community realizes this is a real issue about health,” he said.
But some restaurant workers don’t buy that argument.
Sheri Ruiz has worked at Prada’s, the restaurant owned by her parents, for 14
years. A nonsmoker, she isn’t bothered by the cigarette smoke that wafts her
way, nor is she concerned that it could possibly be damaging her health.
“I’m an adult, I should be able to protect myself,” she said.
Others said it doesn’t really matter whether you perceive the smoking ban as
an economic or a health issue, because when it is in place it won’t have that
significant of an impact on their business.
Sean Brophy, assistant manager of the Onset Harbor Inn and Boat Club, said
that as it stands now, smoking is not allowed in the restaurant portion of the
Onset Avenue establishment. Patrons are allowed to light up in the lounge and
outdoor tiki bar.
He said that cigarettes aren’t sold there, but customers haven’t complained
that they can’t buy cigarettes there.
“Personally, I could care less,” said Mr. Brophy, a nonsmoker.
As for Mr. Zabroski, the Prada’s customer who likes to enjoy a cigarette with
his breakfast, he said he’ll still frequent Prada’s come October. He’ll just
wait to light up.