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Assembly Passes Bill to Push Back Ban on Smoking

Legislature: However, exemption for bars and casinos may lose in Senate. If so, restriction would take effect Jan. 1.

September 09, 1997|From Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — The state Assembly decided Monday that California smokers should have at least one more year to light up in bars and gambling halls.

But the bill, approved 41 to 27 in the 79-member house, faces a likely rejection in the Senate, where it was sent for a vote on amendments added in the Assembly.

Senate President Pro Tem Bill Lockyer (D-Hayward) said the bill will be sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, but said it lacks the votes to be approved there before lawmakers adjourn for the year on Friday.

Backers say that without the bill, hundreds of bars and gambling halls will lose business and may be forced to shut down when they are required to comply with the state's 1994 anti-smoking law.

Without the new legislation, the exemption for bars and gambling halls will expire Jan. 1.

"These businesses and these jobs deserve a chance to survive," said the sponsor, Assemblyman Edward Vincent (D-Inglewood).

But opponents said people go to bars to drink and socialize and can smoke outside, as they do now in other workplaces.

"This bill truly is nothing but smoke and mirrors," said Assemblywoman Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica). "It is not good for anyone. It will not hurt business to stop smoking in bars."

The 1994 law banned smoking in enclosed workplaces beginning in 1995, but exempted bars, taverns and gambling halls until 1997. The Legislature later extended that until Jan. 1, 1998.

Two bills to extend the exemption past Jan. 1 stalled last spring in the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee. Vincent, author of the second of the stalled bills, amended a new exemption into a bill by Sen. Ken Maddy (R-Fresno) on the Assembly floor last week.

The Maddy bill would extend the extension for another year, until Jan. 1, 1999.

After that date, bars and gambling halls could allow smoking if they comply with some yet-to-be-devised state or federal ventilation standards, or if they can reduce smoke by 90%.

Assemblyman Brett Granlund (R-Yucaipa), a smoker and bill supporter, said studies saying that secondhand smoke is dangerous are "completely bogus." Smokers should not have to go to the "leper section" as they do in restaurants, he said.

"In bars, you drink and smoke at the same time. You go to bars to ingest toxins. That's why you go to bars," Granlund said.

Kuehl said the same lost-business argument was used for restaurants when the 1994 law was debated, but restaurant business is up throughout the state.

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