Three years after the Montgomery County Council passed legislation banning smoking in restaurants, sales in those establishments have risen by more than 19 percent, according to a report released Monday.

The announcement came two days after the third anniversary of the law’s passage, but the ban didn’t take effect until Oct. 9, 2003. Rockville and Gaithersburg passed similar legislation within months of the county’s passage.

"People continue to go out and eat and drink and they continue to have a safe place to do it," Council Member Phil Andrews said. Andrews was the bill’s main sponsor.

Data from the report, compiled by the Office of the State Comptroller, was based on sales tax information reported by the restaurants and included all restaurants in the county, Andrews said.

Sales rose from $57.7 million for the year before the smoke-free law took effect to $62.1 million for the year after. The second year saw another increase to $68.8 million. Complete data for the third year was not released but sales still continued to increase, according to Andrews.

"This shows that restaurants continued to thrive in Montgomery County," Andrews said.

An attempt to pass the legislation in 1999, sponsored by former Council member Ike Leggett, made it through the County Council 5-4 but was later vetoed by County Executive Doug Duncan.

Leggett, a Democraticcandidate for the County Executive’s seat in this year’s election, stood with Andrews during Monday’s news conference. He blamed the tobacco industry and restaurant association for the 1999 bill’s failure.