FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. Dan Frankel
Frankel introduces bill to allow local option of stronger smoking bans
Hosting public hearing this morning in Pittsburgh on Pa.'s current law
PITTSBURGH, July 26 – State Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, today introduced legislation that would end Pennsylvania's barrier to local governments from enacting and enforcing smoking bans that are stronger than state law.
Frankel and the House Democratic Policy Committee will hear testimony about the current Clean Indoor Air Act at a public hearing that starts at 10 a.m. today at the University of Pittsburgh’s O’Hara Student Center Dining Room, 4024 O’Hara St.
"The Clean Indoor Air Act of 2008 was a landmark achievement for public health. However, like many laws, it was a compromise and has room for improvement," Frankel said. "In exchange for a statewide law protecting employees in most workplaces from secondhand smoke, every local government except for Philadelphia lost the ability to enforce stronger laws to protect their citizens’ health in other public places."
Current state law allows smoking in bars and the bar areas of restaurants if the establishment submits documents to the state Department of Health alleging that a smoking ban would cost it money; 60 percent of the bars in Allegheny County now allow smoking. Other exceptions to Pennsylvania's smoking ban include up to half of the gaming floor area in casinos, as well as designated smoking areas in residential adult care facilities, community mental health facilities and drug and alcohol treatment facilities. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that ventilation does not effectively protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke.
"Because of the many exemptions, our current law is hard to enforce, unfair to workers, and unfair to businesses," Frankel said. "That’s three strikes against it.
"We shouldn’t be requiring workers in the hospitality industry to face health risks associated with secondhand smoke to find a job. We shouldn’t create a race to the bottom, where bars feel they have to allow smoking to compete with other establishments, and we certainly shouldn’t create a system that’s so complex it’s difficult to figure out who is following the law, and who is breaking it."
Frankel also is co-sponsoring legislation (H.B. 824) introduced by Rep. Mario Scavello, R-Monroe, that would repeal the state's barrier to local smoking bans and also make state-level changes to the Clean Indoor Air Act.
"The state should protect all workers and create a level playing field for businesses," Frankel said. "At a minimum, state government shouldn’t prevent Allegheny County from doing what’s best for our residents."