(WHTM) – Indoor smoking is largely banned in Pennsylvania, but visitors to casinos and bars are currently exempt. A state lawmaker is looking to close that loophole.
Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) has introduced legislation he says will fully ban indoor smoking and protect customers and employees from second-hand smoke.
“Fifteen years ago, this commonwealth took an enormous step forward in ensuring that our workers are not forced to breathe in toxic smoke – it’s time to finish the job,” Frankel said.
Camillia Al-Rokh, who works in hospitality, says it’s not fair for somebody to choose between having a job and exposing themselves to dangerous health risks.
“So to turn around and say that we allowed to blow smoke in their faces and tell them to just deal with it or get another job is the most unhealthy thing that you could ever say to somebody,” Al-Rokh says.
Frankel says casinos are fighting against his legislation.
“They had the opportunity to come here and defend their decisions and allow that allow and promote smoking, and they declined. What does that say about your position, if you will only advocate for it in secret behind closed doors?”
At the Sierra Madre Saloon in Cumberland County, smokers are welcome and their General Manager says it’s part of their business.
“A lot of people come here just because we’re smoking bar,” says Steve Devins.
Devins says the bar’s financial health is on the line and says this is a matter of choice.
“They can walk in the doors. We advertise that we’re smoking the establishment on the doors, on our coupons, on our website. It’s their choice to work here, and it’s their choice to eat here.”
The choice is now up to lawmakers with advocates urging them to finish what they started 15 years ago with Pennsylvania’s Clean Indoor Air Act.
“This bill is about spouses, parents, siblings, and kids,” says Deborah P. Brown, the Chief Mission Officer for the American Lung Association. “This is about Pennsylvania families who continue to be ravaged by the horrific health effects of secondhand smoke exposure and who have been waiting for lawmakers to fulfill their responsibility to protect public health.”
Frankel’s bill would include not only tobacco cigarettes but also e-cigarettes by expanding the definition of smoking. The bill would also allow localities to enact stronger smoke-free ordinances.