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"This has been a long time coming," says Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf (R-12), who originally introduced the legislation in 1993 and saw it voted on for the first time in the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee last January.
Under the new legislation, all restaurants are required to ban smoking. There are some exceptions, however, to the bill. When the bill was approved by the Pennsylvania Senate in June 2007, it was extensively amended to exempt certain businesses. When the House acted on the legislation, many of the Senate exemptions were removed, but the bill was rejected when returned to the Senate for concurrence.
The final bill, approved on June 10, exempts bars and taverns with food sales totaling 20 percent or less. "This is a great victory, but it came as the result of much compromise—it had to," Greenleaf said.
Owners, operators, or managers can be penalized anywhere from $250 to $1,000 for failing to post proper signage or for allowing on-premise smoking. According to the state’s restaurant association, compliance toolkits will be provided to businesses and will include signage, a summary of the legislation, examples of how to help employees and patrons comply, and cessation support program information.
Greenleaf has spearheaded the effort to enact the ban for more than a decade. On May 14, while lobbying for a speedy resolve to the pending law, Greenleaf outlined the dangers of secondhand smoke, saying, “The Environmental Protection Agency designated asbestos as a class A carcinogen, thereafter they classified secondhand smoke as a class A carcinogen,” he said. “So, we're talking about a substance that is the equivalent to asbestos."
Under the new law, designated employee smoking break rooms are not allow. Customers and employees may smoke outside of the building, but the bill does not outline a required minimum distance. The Pennsylvania Restaurant Association recommends a distance of 20 feet.
According to a 2006 report by the United States Surgeon General, more than 53,000 nonsmokers die each year due to exposure to secondhand smoke.