Casino gaming floors exempt in smoking ban - Tuesday 16th of June 2009

Michigan’s House of Representatives took another step toward making the state smoke-free by approving legislation to ban smoking in most public spaces.

 Rep. Paul Scott, a leading proponent to make Michigan smoke-free, voted in favor of House Bill 4377. The measure bans smoking in public places, but exempts casino gaming floors, cigar bars and specialty tobacco stores.

 Thirty-seven states currently have some form of smoking ban. "Although a smoking ban without exemptions is ideal, this measure is a vast improvement on current law and will make great strides to keep Michigan residents healthy," said Scott, a Republican from Grand Blanc.

 "I believe the idea of smoking in restaurants and workplaces will be seen as archaic in the future, much in the same way that using mercury thermometers or lead paint are seen now."

 Scott said the casino exemption includes the three casinos in Wayne County. The legislature does not have the jurisdiction to affect the casinos owned by Native Americans. He said he belives this exemption made it through because the lobbyists in the Detroit area were more effective in their lobbying efforts.

 “I’m furious. It makes no sense,” said Scott, who added that there are no casinos in his 51st District. He said there is sometimes hysteria from company leaders fearing they will lose business if there is a change, such as a smoking ban. Scott said data contradicts this fear and even indicates that business increases with the ban.

 With the cigar bars, Scott said there is definitely a gray area, as far as the exemption is concerned. “We need a clean ban, and consistent across the board.”

 Scott, the first state lawmaker to introduce legislation this session to make Michigan public places smoke-free, testified earlier this year before the House Regulatory Reform Committee in support of the idea. The committee this month approved the bill by a 9-1 vote.

 “It should be smoke-free without exemptions,” Scott said. He said businesses should be playing on a level playing field. He added that there are much more pressing issues that the legislature should be focused on, such as the bankruptcy of General Motors and ever-increasing unemployment numbers.

 “It’s embarrassing and discouraging,” said Scott, who believes that the proposed smoking ban is taking too long. He voted in favor of this bill, even though it included the exemptions, because he said it was the best bill presented to him and it was better than what is currently in place.

 "I urge Senate Majority Leader (Michael) Bishop and the entire state Senate to consider this legislation as soon as possible," Scott said. "The smoking ban debate has dragged on for too long. We must implement the smoking ban now so we can get back to the issues of creating jobs and improving our economy."

 HB 4377 now goes to the Senate for consideration. Scott said he expects action sometime later this month.

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