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Places to Puff Getting Harder to Find

You've heard it said that the world is getting smaller. And that's certainly true if you're an American -- or a visitor to this country -- and you're a smoker. In fact, the non-smoking world is closing in on you.

To date, 14 U.S. states, and more than 2,000 cities and towns, have passed no-smoking ordinances affecting public places -- especially restaurants and bars. Most recently, by a two-to-one margin, voters in the northwestern state of Washington approved a measure that forbids lighting up in workplaces and public gathering spots like taverns and post-office lobbies. And as a Seattle newspaper suggested, Washington state smokers might be wise to carry tape measures, since smoking will also be banned within 7.5 meters of the doors, windows, and vents of public buildings.

As expected, smokers'-rights groups are outraged. Calling anti-smoking advocates moralistic health Nazis, they say the medical research about the harmful effects of second-hand smoke, published by groups like the American Cancer Society, is bad science or pure propaganda. They offer statistics of their own about the smoking bans' adverse economic and social impacts, noting that many small corner taverns and the like have been forced out of business by the new restrictions.

And now the news is even worse for smokers. Westin Hotels has just announced it will be the first hotel chain to ban smoking anywhere -- except balconies and outside grounds -- in all 77 of its U.S., Canadian, and Caribbean properties. The company says it's going smoke-free in response to complaints from non-smoking guests, who are tired of stinky curtains and smelly rugs; and from their cleaning staffs, weary of freshening smokers' rooms and repairing cigarette burns in carpets and beds.

Westin reports that 92% of its guests were already requesting smoke-free rooms. Beginning January 1, they won't have to.