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Proposed smoking ban may fire up debate

Publication Date: 2006-05-24
  • Author:Alison Hawkes
  • Publication:Herald-Standard

An indoor ban on smoking in all public places is expected to light up in the House in early June, and the sponsor says she's not just blowing smoke over its chance of success.

The idea of banning indoor smoking in public places has been slowly gathering momentum in Pennsylvania. Sixteen other states - including neighboring New York, New Jersey, and Delaware - have smoke-free laws. Philadelphia City Council has been debating a ban and the city of Harrisburg nearly had one until the mayor vetoed it.

The issue blipped this week in the Lynn Swann gubernatorial campaign, when the Republican candidate said he parted ways with his running mate, Montgomery County Commissioner Jim Matthews, in not supporting a ban.

Indeed, the issue has always been controversial. Montgomery County Sen. Stewart Greenleaf has introduced bills banning smoking for years but all have stalled in committee.

Now it's another Montgomery County lawmaker, Rep. Sue Cornell, picking up the ball. If her bill passes out of the House Health and Human Services Committee in an expected vote on June 6, it will be the first time ever a smoking ban has reached a Pennsylvania legislative chamber for a full vote.

"A lot of people view it (smoking) as a freedom of choice," said Cornell at a committee hearing Tuesday. "It's not a matter of smoking being annoying to people, it's a health issue."

Cornell plans to toughen up her original bill by amending it to also disallow separate, ventilated smoking sections in restaurants, bars and the like.