Going, Going, Gone in Virginia

If you've got 'em, smoke 'em -- while you can

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Start taking your last puffs. This is the last weekend people will be allowed to smoke inside most Virginia restaurants.

The state's smoking ban will go into effect Tuesday, Dec. 1.

It was an amazing victory for Virginia non-puffers in the state famous for those amazing tobacco auctions where auctioneers, for decades, held the house spellbound when they spewed a semi-intelligible auction yodel -- with the punch line: "Going Once, Going Twice, Sold!"

In this case, the ban was sold to those Virginians who have been trying unsuccessfully -- until now -- to join neighboring Maryland and the District in restaurant smoking bans.

There are exceptions: private clubs and restaurants with physically separate rooms with their own ventilation systems, as well as bars with open-air outside areas.

This was no push-over bill signing for Kaine. He's been trying for a year to ban all smoking in restaurants in Virginia. Chalk one up for bipartisanship. The compromise was hammered out between the Democratic governor and the Republican House Speaker, William J. Howell of Stafford.

Meanwhile, Virginia health officials are zipping around the state to make sure restaurants and bars are ready to crush those ciggie butts.

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