Bill would broaden Pennsylvania smoking ban
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Local governments across Pennsylvania could enact tougher bans on smoking than what is called for by the state's Clean Indoor Air Act under legislation expected to be introduced today by state Rep. Dan Frankel.
Currently, the state's no-smoking law takes precedence, offering some workplaces an exemption, most notably casinos and bars.
Mr. Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, on Wednesday called the indoor air act, which took effect in 2008 after more than a decade of legislative wrangling, "a monumental half-step forward" in protecting the public against the dangers of second-hand smoke.
He said he supported eliminating all exemptions in the law, but didn't believe it was a realistic goal because of strong opposition from affected businesses.
"I'd rather do it uniformly across the state, but if the state isn't prepared to do it, let's not prohibit local governments from protecting the health of their citizens," he said.
Under Mr. Frankel's amendment, Allegheny County or the City of Pittsburgh would be free to ban smoking in all bars, for example.
Under the state's no-smoking law, bars can apply for an exemption as long as they don't allow anyone under 18 inside and food accounts for 20 percent or less of overall sales. At casinos, half the gaming floor is exempt.
When the Rivers Casino opened in Pittsburgh in 2009, Allegheny County wanted it to be smoke-free but was blocked by the state law, Mr. Frankel said.
"It makes little sense to tie the hands of local governments that have an obligation to their constituents to protect their health as best they can," he said.
The chief proponent of the state's no-smoking law, Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery County, is sponsoring legislation to eliminate all exemptions, including those covering casinos, bars and private clubs. But even supporters of the measure expect a long battle toward passage.
A public hearing to examine the state's smoking ban and the need for any changes was set for 10 a.m. today at the University of Pittsburgh in Oakland.
Mr. Frankel, who requested the hearing, said it was prompted in part by a story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in April that raised questions about how well the state's smoking ban was being enforced (www.post-gazette.com/stories/business/news/some-bars-eateries-still-let-patrons-light-up-633612/).
First Published July 26, 2012 12:00 am