Jul 24, 2007

Passage of smoking ban from committee is victory for healthy lungs

In a victory for public health, clean air and healthy lungs, the House Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Andy Meisner, D-Ferndale, voted out a bill that will ban smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants.

The committee voted 12-4 today to approve House Bill 4163, introduced by Rep. Brenda Clack, D-Flint, and send it to the full House floor for consideration. With seven Republicans on the committee, it appears this bill has bipartisan support.

According to the U.S. The Surgeon General, second-hand smoke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 50,000 annually, and there is no amount of safe second-hand smoke. In addition to the 50,000 deaths caused by the more than 4,000 chemical compounds found in second hand smoke, many toxic, it also causes more than 790,000 doctor visits a year for non-fatal diseases, such as asthma, inner ear infections and other afflictions. Second-hand smoke is the single, greatest environmental hazard most people will ever face.

This is the House version of Senate Bill 109 that was introduced by Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, and he has been pushing and introducing the legislation during his entire tenure in the state Legislature, both in the House and Senate. He said this is the first time in more than a decade that a vote of any kind was even allowed on the issue.

“I’m really excited that the committee chair actually allowed a vote,” Basham said. “This is not a partisan issue, it’s a public health issue.”

Basham said some 30 states have enacted a smoking ban, including Tennessee just last month, and he said entire countries that have a tradition of heavy smokers have banned smoking in bars and restaurants, including Ireland, Norway and Canada.

The bill moves on to the House, but Basham’s bill remains stuck in the Republican-controlled Senate in the committee for Economic Development and Regulatory Reform. It’s hoped when the House bill is sent to the Senate it will prompt some action.

“I think it will turn up the pressure on the Senate to do the right thing,” Basham said. “Again, people are dying.”

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