The House Democratic Policy Committee heard testimony from community members, experts, and business owners advocating for the expansion of the Clean Indoor Air Act (CIAA) that went into effect in Pennsylvania beginning in September 2008.
The CIAA allows establishments to permit smoking if they apply and qualify for an exemption. Some taverns, cigar bars, and tobacco shops can all qualify. As of December, more than 2,800 establishments in the commonwealth were exempt from the smoking ban. 60% of bars in Allegheny County allow smoking.
A bar can qualify for an exemption if 20% or less of its revenues is from food sales. Restaurants that have a bar with separate ventilation and doors can also apply for an exemption.
State Representative Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) said CIAA's exemptions for particular businesses and establishments make "little sense."
"In terms of trying to create a healthy environment for Pennsylvanians, to tell some people, some employees in the state, that you are entitled to a safe workplace and to tell other people who work in these establishments that you're not, doesn't seem, to me, to have a constitutional basis," Frankel said.
Testimony leaned toward not allowing any establishment to permit smoking indoors for the health of employees and patrons as well as economic equality for businesses.
Cindy Thomas, Tobacco Free Allegheny Executive Director, said enforcement of the CIAA in Pennsylvania is also an issue, and added it's "complaint-driven."
The Pennsylvania State Police presented a statement at the hearing detailing the state's Liquor Control Enforcement implementation of the CIAA. In the Act's first year, 545 citations were written and 461 warnings. By 2011, violations dropped to 271 citations and 266 warnings. A first-time citation carries a fine normally ranging from $100 to $200.
"So while Pennsylvania has a Clean Indoor Air law, it's not comprehensive and it fails to fully protect all its citizens equally," Thomas said. "To be considered comprehensive, a law must prohibit all smoking in all indoor areas of workplaces and in all restaurants and bars."