A new poll released Tuesday by a coalition of anti-smoking groups shows widespread support among Pennsylvanians for expanding no-smoking laws to social clubs, bars, and casinos.
By J.D. Prose | September 26th, 2017
“In Pennsylvania, tobacco will claim an estimated 22,000 lives this year alone,” Brad Cary, manager of the Breathe Free Pennsylvania Coalition, said in a statement. “We know that comprehensive smoke-free laws save lives and reduce tobacco-related illnesses like heart disease and cancer.”
In the poll of 600 likely voters, the Breathe Free coalition found that by more than a 2-to-1 margin (69 percent to 30 percent), Pennsylvanians support a sweeping law that would ban smoking in all workplaces, including bars and casinos.
A smoking ban enjoys bipartisan support with 72 percent of Democrats, 65 percent of Republicans and 67 percent independents favoring one.
With private clubs also named in the poll, Dwight Fuhrman, the state commander of the Pennsylvania Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Terry Stokes, quartermaster for the Red Lion, Pa., chapter of the VFW, joined coalition representatives in Harrisburg on Tuesday to explain the state VFW’s support for a smoking ban.
“It is time for the state to end the smoking exemption for all facilities licensed by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, including all private clubs,” Fuhrman said in the statement.
“The Pennsylvania VFW wants to improve the health of all veterans, their loved ones and employees inside our clubs,” he said. “Removing this exemption for all PLCB license holders will create an even playing field so there won’t be a competitive disadvantage for those clubs that become nonsmoking operations.”
In May, state Rep. Matt Baker, R-Tioga County, chairman of the state House Health Committee, introduced House Bill 1309 that would eliminate smoking exemptions for bars, casinos and private clubs, as well as hotels, outdoor patios of restaurants and cigar bars and lounges. It also included electronic cigarettes.
The Legislature passed a smoking law in 2008 that allowed smoking in bars that have 20 percent or less of their sales come from food. Baker’s bill remains in the Health Committee and has not received a vote.
At that time, state Reps. Rob Matzie, D-16, Ambridge, and Jim Christiana, R-15, Brighton Township, said they would support banning smoking in casinos and bars, but not in cigar-based businesses. Matzie said employees are aware of smoke being present in cigar bars and lounges when they apply there, and Christiana said a ban would simply drive those small businesses to close.
Sixty-four percent of Pennsylvania voters said in the new poll that they would also like to have e-cigarettes included in a smoking ban while 31 percent are against it. Again, banning e-cigarettes enjoyed bipartisan support, with 64 percent of Democrats and independents favoring it as well as 63 percent of Republicans.
Also, the poll found that 64 percent support local communities being allowed to pass anti-smoking laws stronger than state law. This, too, has bipartisan support, with 58 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents backing it.
The poll, which was conducted Sept. 9 to 12 and has a margin of error of plus/minus 4 percentage points, was released by the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Action Network, American Lung Association in Pennsylvania, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.