Protect Local Control

Ensuring Community Rights
To Pass Smokefree Ordinances

News Summary

Butting In

Publication Date: 2007-07-03
  • Author:Gwen Shaffer
  • Publication:Philadelphia Weekly

After six years of anticipation, a local public smoking ban finally took effect in January. But if some legislators in Harrisburg have their way, all the last-minute compromises and arm-twisting it took to convince a majority of City Council members to vote in favor of a smoking ban may go up in smoke.

In the wake of intense lobbying by special interests, members of the Pennsylvania Senate could wipe Philadelphia’s smoking ban from the books. In a 33-17 vote, lawmakers passed a statewide smoking ban June 26 that’s significantly weaker than Philadelphia’s local ordinance. It would permit smoking in designated areas of hospitals, hotels, certain taverns, private clubs—and even in small daycare centers. State Sen. Charles T. McIlhinney, a Republican from Bucks County, sponsored an amendment that will allow smoking on 25 percent of casino floors.

Perhaps most significantly, the Senate bill includes a preemption clause, meaning that Philadelphia and other cities in the commonwealth lose authority to enact tougher restrictions. The preemption language comes courtesy of an amendment sponsored by Sen. McIlhinney.

Health and environmental advocates say they’re frustrated that six arduous years of fighting for meaningful antismoking laws in Philadelphia could ultimately be snuffed out...