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Senator seeks limits on smoking

Publication Date: 2012-01-11
  • Author:Dana Beyerle

State Sen. Vivian Davis Figures said Tuesday she plans to introduce legislation and a constitutional amendment that would ban smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants but not private clubs.

During her 13 years in the Senate, Figures, D-Mobile, has proposed various anti-smoking legislation, primarily aimed at curtailing people’s exposure to second-hand smoke. She was successful nine years ago in passing the state’s Clean Air Act, which restricts smoking in public buildings and retail businesses but is not as strict as laws in other states.

“Despite the gains we have made, we have yet to enact a comprehensive bill to protect the air that all Alabamians breathe,” she said.

Figures said she plans to propose a constitutional amendment because it would give voters a direct say. An amendment would have to pass the Legislature and then would go to a statewide vote.

“If legislators don’t want to throw this on the people, let the people decide,” Figures said.

The 2012 legislative session begins Feb. 7.

Figures said she initially considered pushing a smoking ban in private clubs such as Elks and Moose lodges but changed her mind. “Private clubs will not be part of the constitutional amendment,” she said.

The Tobacco Free Alabama coalition is seeking a statewide smoking prohibition in public buildings and work places. But Ginny Campbell, legislative director of the Alabama chapter of the American Cancer Society, which is part of the coalition, said a constitutional amendment banning smoking is a problem.

“Most of the groups don’t support a CA because it shouldn’t be in the constitution,” she said. “The Legislature could do that itself but there’s no guarantee they will even pass it.”

She said Tobacco Free Alabama’s position is to ban smoking in all places where people work and in private clubs, even cigar clubs. “We don’t think any employee ought to be subjected to second-hand smoke,” Campbell said.

The coalition scheduled a general membership meeting Jan. 19 in Montgomery to elect officers, assign committees and talk about legislation relating to tobacco and the public, Campbell said.

“Right now, what it looks like is we’re concentrating trying to pass smoke-free ordinances in municipalities,” she said.

The Alabama Clean Indoor Air Act took effect in 2003. It bans smoking in hospitals, schools, most retail businesses, elevators and buses and taxis, except in specific areas. Smoking is prohibited in government buildings, except private offices, and in restrooms, service lines, polling places and lobbies and hallways of multi-use buildings, the Associated Press reported.

The law excludes most workplaces, leaving it up to owners of bars or restaurants to decide whether to allow smoking in their establishments.

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