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News Summary

Measure curbing exemptions to smoke-free law advances

Publication Date: 6/3/2011
  • Author:Torey Van Oot
  • Publication:Sacramento Bee

A watered-down bill to eliminate most of the exemptions to California's 17-year-old workplace smoking ban cleared the state Senate on Thursday.

Senate Bill 575, by Democratic Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, would add sites such as hotel and motel lobbies and banquet rooms, warehouse facilities, employee break rooms and small and owner-operated businesses to the list of smoke-free zones.

The measure originally targeted cigar and tobacco retailers and lounges. But DeSaulnier decided to cut that provision from the bill this week after facing stiff opposition from shop owners and stogie lovers, including an international trade association based in Georgia. Critics argue that such a ban would unfairly hurt business and undermine the ability to serve customers who come to the sites to smoke.

"The reality is they had influence with members, so bringing it up would have risked the whole bill as it was. I'd rather get what's still a very significant bill that will bring us up to par with other states," the Concord Democrat said.

He said he wants to continue to work with cigar interests to carve a more narrow exemption to workplace smoking laws that won't allow restaurants or bars that sell tobacco products, including hookah bars, to circumvent the smoke-free rules.

The measure passed 25-14 and now heads to the Assembly.