Health
8:30 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

Senator Calls For Stricter Smoking Laws

Pennsylvania State Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) wants to strengthen the Clean Indoor Air Act to ban smoking in casinos and all restaurants, bars, and taverns.

In September 2008, the Clean Indoor Air Act took effect prohibiting smoking in most indoor work and public places through the state.

Under the current law, smoking is allowed in half of a total floor space in casinos, and bars can apply for exceptions to the smoking ban if they show they earn less than 20 percent of their revenues from food sales.

Greenleaf, who was a sponsor of the original bill, said he is expecting a tough fight to pass the new legislation.

"There's tremendous lobbying efforts against it, but one thing you have to be in politics and the legislature is be persistent," said Greenleaf. "And so I've got to be persistent about this because their lives and their health is the core foundation of what state government should be about."

He said the Indoor Air Act has done a lot to protect Pennsylvanians from secondhand smoke, citing a Repace Associates study stating that six months after implementation of the 2008 law, indoor air pollution dropped 87 percent.

According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), secondhand smoke can lead to lung cancer and increased risk of heart disease in adults who do not smoke. The EPA estimates secondhand smoke causes approximately 3,000 lung cancer deaths per year in nonsmokers.

Greenleaf said Pennsylvania workers cannot switch jobs like patrons switch services if smoking is permitted at a casino or bar.

"When you have a job, you're not going to give up that job, you're very foolish if you do because it's going to be very difficult to obtain another position. And even if, when we're not in a recession, it's still a situation where many people don't have that many options on where they have their employment," said Greenleaf. "We're lucky to have a job now. We're lucky, even in good times, to have a job. And so they have no choice."

Twenty-eight states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico have enacted comprehensive clean indoor air laws. Greenleaf said organizations including the American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, and the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association are supporting tougher legislation.