Health Committee approves Frankel bill to protect workers from secondhand smoke

HARRISBURG, Nov. 15 – State Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, celebrated approval of his bill to close loopholes in Pennsylvania’s Clean Indoor Air Act in the House Health Committee Wednesday, saying that it’s long past time for the commonwealth to step in and ensure workers are protected from the hazards of secondhand smoke.

“We are the Health Committee – it’s in the name. We cannot refuse to act while thousands of Pennsylvanians are forced to choose between an absolutely undebatable health hazard and their ability to put food on the table,” said Frankel, who is majority chairman of the committee.

House Bill 1657 would ban smoking – including the use of e-cigarettes – in the state’s bars, clubs and casinos that were allowed to permit smoking due to loopholes included in the Pennsylvania’s Clean Indoor Air Act when it was passed in 2008.

Frankel noted that much has changed since the prior bill passed, including an avalanche of public health data supporting smoking bans and a sharp decline in the popularity of smoking. A growing body of evidence shows that the feared economic consequences of smoking bans never came to pass and that there are far more consumers who won’t choose to subject themselves to smoking environments than smokers who will shun establishments where they cannot smoke.

“It’s preposterous to argue that smoking bans are bad for business when Pennsylvania’s most successful casino is voluntarily smoke free,” Frankel said, referring to Parx Casino’s ongoing domination of commonwealth gaming.

Twenty-one states, along with Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have workplace smoking bans that cover restaurants, bars and gambling establishments.

The Protecting Workers from Secondhand Smoke Act would:

  • Eliminate loopholes in the Clean Indoor Air Act that leave workers exposed to cancerous secondhand smoke.
  • Expand the definition of smoking to add e-cigarettes to combat the rise in vaping-related illnesses.
  • Give all localities the ability to enact smoke-free ordinances that are more protective than state law. 

The committee approved three amendments to the bill that would continue some limited exceptions to the smoking ban, including those covering cigar bars, outdoor patios, home offices and some private clubs that meet ventilation and other requirements. 

A companion bill has been introduced by state Sen. Jay Costa, D-Allegheny.

Video of the proceedings is available in the link below, beginning at the 12:30 mark: