Pa. senator wants to toughen indoor smoking ban

HARRISBURG, Pa. - September 10, 2008 - Sen. Stewart Greenleaf said he plans to introduce a bill in January to amend the law that takes effect Thursday and make the ban complete.

The law forbids lighting up in most workplaces and public spaces, including restaurants, train stations, office buildings and sports arenas. But it also authorizes the state to grant exemptions for certain operations, including private clubs; casinos; nursing homes; bars where food accounts for no more than 20 percent of annual sales; and as many as 25 percent of the rooms in hotels and motels.

Greenleaf, a Montgomery County Republican who has pushed for no-smoking legislation for 15 years, estimated that the new law will apply to 95 percent of all businesses and establishments. He said he expects his colleagues who resisted a stricter ban will get pressure from constituents to expand the prohibition in the coming months.

"Now that we've got 95 percent, it'll be a lot easier to get the other 5 percent," he said after a Capitol news conference on the new law. "It's not going to take 15 years to do it."

Businesses that believe they qualify for an exception must apply to the state for approval. State Health Secretary Dr. Calvin Johnson said about 700 have applied, so far.

Johnson said he hopes the law will eventually be transformed into a complete ban, but said that it is "solid" in its current form.

"Once you get a taste of sitting down at a restaurant or going to a bowling alley ... and realize that the difference is tremendous ... we'll get 100 percent of Pennsylvanians indicating very clearly that Pennsylvania should be smoke-free," Johnson said.

Businesses or people who break the state law would face fines of up to $250 for a first offense and up to $1,000 for repeat offenders.

The city of Philadelphia will be allowed to continue its own more restrictive ban.

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