Pennsylvania Smoking Ban, Continued

Pennsylvania has been dubbed "the ashtray of the northeast" because it is the only state in the region without a public smoking ban.

There is no debate in the scientific and medical communities: secondhand smoke kills Americans by the tens of thousands every year.

And the people of Pennsylvanian overwhelmingly support a public smoking ban.

The only debate is in the Pennsylvania legislature, where our lawmakers continue to stall on the smoking ban, ignoring the scientific and medical evidence, and violating the will of the people.

Why?  Because Pennsylvania lawmakers are corrupt.  They are bending to the lobbying from the tobacco industry, and are unwilling to damage the tax revenue stream they receive from tobacco sales.  Ostensibly they are trying to protect businesses who claim they’ll be hurt by the smoking ban, but that’s a lie because all evidence shows that smoking bans do not hurt businesses.

To be fair, I should say that I have no proof of this corruption, and there is one other possible explanation: that PA lawmakers are incredibly, mind-numbingly incompetent.  But when you ignore the will of the people, ignore the scientific and medical evidence, when all the other states in your neighborhood are on board, and when the only group on your side is the tobacco industry itself, well, that sure smells like corruption.

Here is a timeline including the many delays that our lawmakers have caused so far by failing to act on the public smoking ban:

1993-2006: PA Senator Stewart Greenleaf (R-Montgomery County) introduces smoking ban bills in every legislative session, to no avail.

Summer of 2007: there was supposed to be a vote on the ban, but it was pushed back to September.

Fall of 2007: the two chambers produced differing bills on the ban, and failed to reach a compromise on them.

April of 2008: a joint House-Senate committee was supposed to produce a compromise bill, but postponed it for a month.

April of 2008: a month later, the committee postponed their work again, for a week.

May 7, 2008: a week later, the committee again postponed their work.

Quoting The York Daily Record:

A vote on compromise legislation that would ban smoking in most indoor places was postponed again.  A meeting of the joint House-Senate conference committee was tentatively scheduled for Monday, according to the office of Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery.  A Wednesday meeting ended shortly after Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks, said he needed time to revise his proposal to incorporate concerns from the governor’s office over enforcement provisions.  McIlhinney would not talk about any other aspect of his proposal.  Some of the major issues that have divided legislators for the past year are whether to ban smoking in bars, restaurants and casinos, and whether a state law should pre-empt local smoking bans, such as the one in Philadelphia, that are stricter. (Senate Bill 246)

May 12, 2008: the committee was set to vote on a bill written by Senator Chuck McIlhinney, but failed to do so after Governor Ed Rendell threatened to veto any bill that weakened Philadelphia’s existing smoking ban.  McIlhinney is trying to paint the delay as being the fault of Rendell’s veto and/or of Philadelphia itself:

Quoting Chuck McIlhinney:

"This whole issue is coming down to Philadelphia getting its own law or not," McIlhinney, R-Bucks, said.

But the truth is that McIlhinney’s "new" bill is essentially the same as the failed bill that the Senate passed last year, and the whole issue is really coming down to the fact that what lawmakers are putting forth isn’t what the people of Pennsylvania want.

McIlhinney continues:

Quoting Chuck McIlhinney:

"If Philadelphia is allowed to have its own law, then each municipality will want its own law..."

And why is that?  Because your state-level law is shaping up to be a piece of garbage, so naturally each municipality wants to have the option of implementing a real ban, as Philadelphia has already done.

May 28, 2008: the committee is scheduled to meet next week, on June 3rd and 4th.

June 3, 2008: the committee finally produced and approved a compromise version of the smoking ban, which must now be approved by the full House and Senate.

June 4, 2008: the House approves the committee’s ban, but the Senate rejects it, thanks to Senate Democrats who are upset that the ban preempts local ordinances other than Philadelphia’s.  In theory they’re right, but in reality, 90% of Pennsylvanians currently have no smoking ban, and this bill would cover the majority of them; so the Senate should get its act together and pass this ban.  They’ve got a re-vote scheduled for June 9th.

June 9, 2008: the Senate postpones their scheduled vote.

June 10, 2008: the Senate votes to approve, so the public smoking ban will become law.

June 13, 2008: Governor Ed Rendell signs the public smoking ban into law, to take effect in 90 days.

Posted by Anthony on 2 replies


01. May 9, 2008 at 03:16pm by Anthony:

Today William V. Corr, Executive Director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, released a statement echoing most of these same ideas:

The conference committee should approve legislation that protects all workers and covers all workplaces and public places, including restaurants, bars and casinos. Any exemptions would send an unacceptable message that some workers’ health and lives are less worthy of protection than others.

In issuing a groundbreaking report on secondhand smoke in June 2006, U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona stated, "The debate is over. The science is clear: Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance, but a serious health hazard that causes premature death and disease in children and nonsmoking adults."

The evidence is also clear that smoke-free laws protect health without harming business. As the Surgeon General concluded, "Evidence from peer-reviewed studies shows that smoke-free policies and regulations do not have an adverse impact on the hospitality industry."

Twenty-four states, including most of Pennsylvania’s neighbors, and Washington, DC, have enacted strong smoke-free workplace laws that include restaurants and bars... It is time for Pennsylvania to join the growing number of states that protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air.

02. Jan 14, 2009 at 07:26pm by ron:

i noticed that pa casinos are now allowed to intensify higher concentrations of second hand smoke.  the original 25% was increased to half of the casinos.  this increase is based on a so-call decrease in revenue.  the economy should be considered as a reason for the decrease. it would be nice if casinos followed the same model as sport arenas, theaters, churches, etc.  people will still come and everyone will live for a few hours.  thank you.

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