Jan 23, 2011

The first assault on the popular and effective workplace smoking is launched

With the start of the 96th Michigan Legislature two weeks ago, the assault on the popular and effective workplace smoking ban has already begun.

Like the last legislative session, Rep. Doug Geiss, D-Taylor, reintroduced a bill to weaken the popular smoking ban that went into effect on May 1. The bill he reintroduced would turn back the clock to ineffective smoking sections, and the bill would allow bars to have “legal smoking rooms.”

Geiss introduced House Bill 4127 on Thursday, and it was referred to the House Committee on Regulatory Reform where it is awaiting action.

This is the same bill he tried last session that died in committee, but two facts stand in the way of passage this time around: the first is that at the beginning of the year, the U.S. Navy Submarine force, with the most sophisticated air exchange and purification system in the world, announced that it will ban all smoking on its submarine fleet because there are unacceptable levels of secondhand smoke in the atmosphere of a submerged submarine, and last month the U.S. Surgeon General issued a report that said “just inhaling smoke from someone else's cigarette could be enough to cause a heart attack and even death.”

The fact that the smoking ban actually increased business in bars and restaurants, as evidenced by sales tax collections in restaurants and bars that were up 2.84 percent over last year, was just a bonus.

Geiss and bar owners tried to sneak this past the many supporters of the ban with a stealth campaign, but supporters caught wind of it and flooded the committee hearing room last November leading the committee chair not to take it up.

Despite the huge turnover in the Legislature because of term limits, there are 10 members of the Regulatory Reform Committee who were in the House when the bill making the smoking bill law was approved in December 2009. Of those 10, six voted for the ban, including the chair of the committee, Rep. Hugh Crawford, R-Novi.

Based on that, I don’t see this bill as having much of a chance, but based on past experience, vigilance is the word.

This probably will not be the only and last assault on the ban that took years of hard work to enact, and the pro-smoking lobby is hoping a new Republican Governor and Republican control of the Michigan House and Senate can win exceptions or kill the popular, bipartisan workplace smoking ban.

The Michigan Licensed Beverage Association (MLBA), notorious for using false and debunked information to try and make its case, is again pushing hard to undo the ban.

We need to fight back with the facts.

1 comment:

K. said...

Michigan could raise its tobacco and do nothing with the money. It would still be good public policy.