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News Summary

Pa. smoking ban goes into effect, with exemptions

Publication Date: 9/11/2008
  • Author:Kathy Boccella
  • Publication:Philadelphia Inquirer

...Not as of today, Jason - not when Pennsylvania's smoke-free workplace law goes into effect, banning smoking in most public places, including many bars, restaurants, taxi cabs, schools and government buildings.

However, the bill, known as the Clean Indoor Air Act, is loaded with exemptions, including bars in which food represents less than 20 percent of sales and portions of casino floors and private clubs. Also, the bill bars any municipality from enacting its own sanction.

Philadelphia's smoking ban, the only active one in the state, would not be affected.

The law, passed June 13, after months of debate, was deemed so weak that it failed to get the endorsement of smoking opponents who say it does not do enough to protect workers from second-hand smoke, which the U.S. Surgeon General has linked to cancer.

The bill has "too many exemptions and therefore creates too much confusion as to what is smoke-free and what isn't smoke-free," said Deborah Brown, spokeswoman for the American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic region. "We want to protect everyone from second-hand smoke."

The political compromise "sells out the health of hospitality industry workers," said Bronson Frick, associate director of Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights.

Of the 24 statewide smoking bans in the nation, Pennsylvania's is the weakest because of its many loopholes and the stricture on communities, including Allegheny County and the city of Scranton, that want to enact their own, tougher laws, opponents say.

"This only serves the interests of the tobacco industry. If the state isn't going to protect the health of workers, then cities and counties should be allowed to," Frick said.