Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Butt out, folks

It took longer than expected, but the Pennsylvania Senate finally cleared the air.

That is on Tuesday they approved the compromise bill that would enact the state’s first smoking ban, limiting lighting up in lots of public places, including many workplaces.

All four senators with ties to Delaware County, Republicans Dominic Pileggi and Ted Erickson, as well as Democrats Connie Williams and Anthony Williams, backed the measure. That’s a change of heart for the Democrats, who were part of the group who originally snuffed out the measure last week in part because of the number of exclusions that water down the effect of the ban.

They have a point. This is not perfect legislation. That’s why they call it a compromise.

A lot of bars and local taverns will be exempted, anyplace where food is 20 percent or less of annual sales.

Then there’s the state’s glittering new casinos. As much as 25 percent of a casino floor – including Harrah’s in Chester -- will remain fair game for smokers, maybe as much as 50 percent if the casino can prove that the ban is hurting business.

Even with the exemptions, it’s light years from where the state and many workers too often found themselves, breathing in unhealthy – and unwanted – smoke, especially in the workplace.

The measure already was passed overwhelmingly by the state House. It now goes to Gov. Ed Rendell, who has indicated he will sign it. It goes into effect 90 days after that.

It’s been a long time in coming as Pennsylvania finally gets around to joining its neighbors in Delaware and New Jersey in reining in the number of public places where people can smoke.

Their message to Pennsylvanians: Butt out. It’s about time.

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