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OUR VIEW: Two smoke-free bills are being considered by House and Senate

Publication Date: 2012-03-06
  • Author:Birmingham News editorial board
  • Publication:The Birmingham News

The Alabama House's and Senate's respective Health Committees have important bills to consider in their meetings: Two separate bills that would ban smoking in almost every public place in the state, including bars, restaurants, hotels and motels.

The House bill, sponsored again by state Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Indian Springs, is the better bill in one respect. Unlike the Senate bill, sponsored again by state Sen. Vivian Figures, D-Mobile, the House bill also would ban smoking in enclosed areas of private clubs. Figures' bill exempts private clubs from the smoking restrictions altogether.

That doesn't make sense, considering the statement, found in both bills, that the Legislature "finds and declares that the purposes of this act are to protect the health and welfare of the public . and to recognize that the need to breathe smoke free air takes priority over the desire to smoke."

That's a very appropriate -- and true -- statement.

Why, then, are employees at private clubs less at risk from the affects of secondhand smoke than those men and women who work in restaurants and bars? And, will Figures' exemption of private clubs set up a loophole like the one that used to exist when liquor sales were banned on Sundays at restaurants? Then, a restaurant became a private club, and all was OK.

McClurkin's bill clearly better fulfills than Figures' the stated reason for enacting the smoke-free law. But Figures' may have the better chance at passage. Her bill is co-sponsored by 15 Senate Democrats and Republicans. McClurkin is the only House member listed on her bill...