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Chautauqua County Grants First Waivers to Smoking Ban

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – While the Erie and Niagara County Health Departments continue to put together a smoking exemption policy for area businesses and organizations, Chautauqua County is already issuing temporary waivers.

Smokers are now allowed to light up once again inside the Donut Connection on West Third Street in Jamestown. The donut shop, like so many Western New York businesses, has been struggling since the state imposed a new "no smoking" ban in July. But at least, temporarily, customers will be allowed to smoke at the Donut Connection.

Owner Toni Plakson says she has lost 15-percent of her business due to the no-smoking rule.

"They just brought my waiver in," Plakson said. "Because I have a separate area that's enclosed in glass, they said I could have my smoking back."

Plaskon says she built the enclosed glass smoking area when she relocated her business prior to the state ban. She says the waiver is only for the next 90-days. Still, Plakson says she hopes it will help to recoup some of her losses.

Plakson says some customers have been outraged by the new rule and are heading over the Pennsylvania border to drink at bars, shop and smoke in coffee shops. In fact, Plakson claims some bars in Pennsylvania have posted signs saying they "love smoke free NY."

"They (her customers) were really mad," Plakson said. "They thought it was an infringement on their rights and a lot quit coming. There are about six of them who now go to Pennsylvania for everything -- groceries and gas -- everything."

The Chautauqua County Health Department says it has received numerous waiver requests from area businesses to allow smoking. The waivers are temporary until a permanent process is created. Plakson says her message to the state is "don't try to control individual habits."