Sep 16, 2008
Hundreds rally for good health and indoor smoking ban
LANSING -- Hundreds of supporters of all ages crowded into the Capitol rotunda Tuesday to push the Michigan Legislature to pass House Bill 4163 that will ban smoking in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants.
“We have an obligation as legislators to protect the public health, and we are going to do that,” Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, told the cheering crowd. “This is an issue I have been working on for more than 10 years.”
The House approved HB 4163 back in December and sent it to the Senate, but it contained exceptions or carves outs for casinos, tobacco retailers, bingo halls, horse racing tracks and so-called "cigar bars." After months of pressure, the Senate finally allowed a vote in May and approved an amendment introduced by Basham that had no carve outs and sent it back to the House for concurrence. A few weeks later, the House sent over a vehicle bill with the carve outs.
Basham said he has a commitment from Speaker of the House Andy Dillon to allow a vote on the clean bill, HB 4163.
“I would not be here and we would not be where we are now without the hard work of Judy Stewart and the Campaign for Smoke free Air,” Basham said.
The people at the rally lobbied state Representatives, and speculation is a vote will come before the end of September and before the Lame Duck session starts in November after the election.
“The merits of this proposal just screams out at you; it‘s not about if you can smoke, it’s about where you can smoke,” said Rep. Andy Meisner, D-Ferndale. “People around the state are literately holding their breath for us to make the change.”
Dr. Greg Holzman, Chief Medical Executive for the Michigan Department of Community Health, told the crowd secondhand smoke kills thousands of Michigan residents who do not smoke every single year.
“The scientific evidence is undisputable,” he said. “It’s no longer a scientific question, it’s a political issue.”
A pair of studies released earlier this year debunked opponents claim that a smoking ban will hurt the business of bars and restaurants.
“We have all heard it will hurt businesses,” Holzman said. “The good news is that we have been so slow in enacting a ban, we have lots of data from states that have gone smoke free. It has shown is does not hurt business and in most cases it improved it.”