May 1, 2008

Michigan continues to lag in protecting resident’s health

LANSING – Iowa became the latest state to go smokefree, including bars and restaurants, according to a press release by the Campaign for Smokefree Air.

The grrassroots coalition, dedicated to making Michigan smokefree, said it applauded the Iowa Legislature and Governor Chet Culver for their leadership in ensuring smokefree workplaces with the Smokefree Air Act, signed on April 15. Iowa joins more than 30 other states that have gone smokefree, but Michigan has not done the same. House Bill 4163, that bans smoking in all Michigan workplaces, including bars and restaurants, remains bottled up in the Senate because of Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop.

“Michigan senators need to stop ignoring the growing support for smokefree air and pass comprehensive legislation here in Michigan,” said Katherine Knoll, spokesperson for CSA. “We would like our lawmakers to protect the health of their constituents by passing a strong version of HB 4163 without any exemptions. Every Michigan worker should be protected from secondhand smoke.”

The news from Iowa comes on the heels of a report by the leading Lansing research firm Public Sector Consultants Inc. called “Smokefree workplaces: The Impact of House Bill 4163 on the Restaurant and Bar Industry in Michigan” that summarized 43 other studies and six public health reports across North America that have examined the economic and health aspects of banning workplace smoking in some form. The report concluded that "the vast majority" concluded there is no net economic impact on bars and restaurants. It also included polls showing increasing public support for bans, with support even stronger after bans have been enacted.

Perhaps more significantly was one of the authors of the study, former Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, a senior policy fellow at PSC. It was Sikkema who refused to give the smoking ban bill, pushed by Sen. Ray Basham, a hearing when he led the Senate before Bishop.

Last December, the Democratic-controlled House approved House Bill 4163 -- introduced by Rep. Brenda Clack, D-Flint -- by a vote of 56-46. When the bill was referred to the Republican-controlled Senate, a brief fight ensued as to what committee it would be sent to. Proponents of the bill wanted it to go to what many saw as the most logical place for it: the Health Policy Committee. The chairman of that committee, Sen. Tom George, is receptive to the ban. George is a medical doctor. Instead, it was sent to the Government Operations and Reform Committee, chaired by Bishop. Although the ban has lots of support from people from both parties, Bishop has said he will not only not allow the bill to be voted on; it will not get even get a hearing.

However, Bishop told an audience at a town hall meeting in February in Oakland Country, sponsored by the League of Women Voters featuring Bishop and Speaker of the House Andy Dillion, that he would give the bill a hearing before his committee. However, Bishop did not give a date for the hearing.

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