The ban will in some cases preempt the strict anti-smoking law that Mayor Michael Bloomberg championed for New York City and which came into effect at midnight last Saturday.
For example, a loophole in the Bloomberg ban that would have allowed smoking in establishments personally operated by the owners is now closed by the state ban.
The state legislature in Albany passed the measure in the face of severe opposition from several Republican assembly members.
Lisa Dewald Stoll, press spokesperson for the governor, said that Pataki still had reservations about the law, based on its perceived inconsistencies. But she added that “he has signed the bill because he believes a statewide ban on smoking in the workplace will lead to a healthier New York and reduce the cost of health care.”
The statewide ban is just the latest in a round of coordinated anti-smoking laws that started with Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Orange and Dutchess counties and New York City.
The ban also eliminates what could have become a border dispute in the Bronx and Queens, where bar owners with premises on the city borders feared customers would cross into Westchester and Nassau counties where they could still enjoy a smoke with their drink.
Bloomberg welcomed the statewide ban and said that since he pushed the New York City law into existence, he has lost count of the number of bar staff who have thanked him for saving their lives from secondhand smoke.
A mayoral spokesperson, Jordan Barowitz, said that Bloomberg “is very pleased that the state is ensuring that all New Yorkers work in a safe environment.”
The statewide ban was greeted with resignation by some of the Irish bar owners who had led a campaign to stop the ban in New York City.
Brian Rohan of the United Restaurant and Liquor Dealers, who had helped coordinate the campaign, said: “My personal opinion is that smoking is now illegal, let’s move on. The moves by Albany have changed everything.”
Some bar owners who had taken advantage of a provision in the Bloomberg ban for the construction of sealed smoking rooms have now found that the expensive rooms have been outlawed by the Albany ban.
One architect said that investments of as much as $20,000 in the rooms have now been lost.
Albany lawmakers, however, said that the public health benefits far outweighed any potential loss of business to small businesses — bars and restaurants.
“This is probably the most important piece of legislation that the legislature has passed in years,” said the senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno. “When you’re talking about the quality of life here, and people’s health and welfare and safety, I don’t think there’s anything more important.”
New York State joins California and Delaware in imposing a near-total ban on smoking in public. Florida, Maine, Utah and Vermont have all banned smoking in restaurants but not bars.