Los Angeles, Feb. 17: Arnold Schwarzenegger, California’s cigar-smoking governor, is to tear a roof off the state capitol so that smokers can enjoy their vice inside the legislature.
The Austrian-born actor, elected governor last November, is facing protests for deciding to turn a courtyard in the building into a “smoking plaza”. It will include a drinking area. Part of the roof will be removed to get round a California law banning smoking in offices, bars and restaurants.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan has angered the anti-smoking lobby
The governor’s spokesperson, Terri Carbaugh, said he planned to be among those using the area. “It’s a more positive environment where they can all be on an equal footing, as opposed to everyone going into the governor’s office where he’s behind his desk.”
Schwarzenegger is rarely seen in public without a cigar and has twice appeared on the cover of Cigar Aficionado magazine.
He insists that the power of a cigar has already paid political dividends. It was reported that the sharing of a couple of the governor’s favourite smokes helped to persuade Democratic legislative leaders to put up his $15 billion bond to bail out the state’s budget on the March primary ballot. But his plan has angered the powerful anti-smoking lobby.
Smoking was banned in all restaurants in California in 1995 and the ban was extended to bars three years later. At the end of last year the prohibition was extended to anywhere 20 feet from a public building’s entrance.
Dozens of protesters gathered at the state capitol building in Sacramento at the weekend to protest against Schwarzenegger’s plaza plans.
The event featured a memorial of photographs of prominent dead smokers including actors and politicians.
Other stars have been the targets of anti-smoking campaigners, notably Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, both smokers who regularly light up in films and who were the recipients of a nationwide letter-writing campaign.