We agree with laws that restrict smoking in most public places, especially the state’s ban on all smoking in indoor workplaces, commercial establishments, most restaurants, near schools and most recently, playground areas at state parks. We also understand the concern some have that a new state House bill goes a step too far with a proposal to carry smoking restrictions across the threshold of private social clubs.

In the end, though, we believe health concerns are what matter most.

Legislation was introduced in the state House on Feb. 12 to close indoor smoking “loopholes” by restricting smoking inside the state’s casinos and private social clubs. 

It’s good that Pennsylvania has enacted laws restricting smoking in most public areas, especially those where children and young adults are present, like private clubs and casinos.

We understand the nation, and its Constitution, also grant adults freedom to make personal decisions within the limits of the law. Eric Schippers, a spokesman for Penn National Gaming, said its a balancing act for casinos to accommodate all who choose to be present in these facilities. Industry experts also say banning smoking in these facilities could cost more than 3,000 jobs statewide.

“As members of the hospitality industry, we seek to accommodate the needs of both our smoking and non-smoking customers through the use of state-of-the-art ventilation systems, extremely high ceilings and through the adequate separation of smoking and non-smoking areas,” Schippers said. “It’s a balance and one that we feel the marketplace should determine, particularly in such a competitive environment with other gaming facilities nearby and in neighboring states.”

Clearly, second-hand smoke is a major health risk. The United States surgeon general estimates that second-hand smoke exposure contributes to approximately 41,000 deaths among non-smoking adults and 400 deaths in infants each year. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are placed at an increased risk for respiratory infections, middle ear disease, severe asthma and slowed lung growth.

“Our current law says it’s OK if some people are at risk of getting sick. Well, that’s not OK with me,” said state Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny County, author of House Bill 2298. “In the 11 years since we banned smoking in most workplaces, it has become even more clear that exposure to second-hand smoke is a health risk that nobody should be asked to take.”

We agree with Rep. Frankel, too.

Employees of these establishments don’t leave their rights at the door, either. High-ceilings and ventilation systems might help someone who spends an hour or two eating or gambling, but what are the health implications of someone who works an 8-to-10-hour shift? These should have the freedom to work in a smoke-free environment and not suffer the health-risks associated with long-term exposure to second-hand smoke.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Digital Editor Dave Hilliard.


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