Snuff Out Exceptions To Smoking Law
State lawmakers handed out a huge favor to narrow interests a decade ago, when they passed an otherwise sound law to ban smoking in indoor public places. It’s not unusual for politicians to create exceptions for their favored interests into laws that should apply uniformly across the commonwealth. But it was particularly egregious in this case because the giveaway imperiled the health of thousands of Pennsylvanians. The driving force behind the indoor smoking ban was abundant, irrefutable research proving that secondhand smoke was a massive public health problem. Since 1964, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2.5 million Americans have died from diseases caused by exposure to secondhand smoke. It is implicated in lung cancer, a range of respiratory diseases, stroke, heart disease, ear and nasal infections, reproductive dysfunction, low birth weight and a long list of other problems. It is responsible for 34,000 premature deaths a year among nonsmokers from heart disease, another 8,000 from stroke, and 7,300 from lung cancer. It increases the risk for heart disease and stroke by up to 30 percent. Those numbers were even worse back in 2008. Lawmakers moved to ban smoking indoors in public places to protect nonsmokers, especially workers in those places who do not have the option to simply leave. Yet the lawmakers allowed indoor smoking to continue in casinos, in some bars based irrelevantly on the amount of food they serve, and in private social clubs. Statewide, state law allows about 1,700 such places to continue to expose nonsmoking patrons and thousands of workers to airborne toxins and carcinogens. State Rep. Dan Frankell, an Allegheny County Democrat who has rounded up a great deal of bipartisan support, wants to eliminate the exceptions from the state Clean Indoor Air Act. “It’s been a decade,” he said. “We know the law works. Let’s make it work for everyone. ” According to the American Lung Association, about 18 percent of Pennsylvania adults smoke. The notion that other Pennsylvanians must, by law, risk their health to accommodate a minority’s addiction is ridiculous. Lawmakers should rescind the exceptions.