Smoking Bans Up To The business Or Up To The State

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Non-smokers in Michigan may get a breath of fresh air if the Department of Community Health gets its way. But that would require the House and Senate to agree on the terms of a workplace ban on smoking.

Orlando Todd, a departmental specialist in smoke-free workplace environments, said the Legislature hasn’t reached an agreement. Last year, a compromise failed because the Senate wanted a blanket ban while the House wanted exceptions for casinos and bars. The Legislature has begun again to consider action. Four House and two Senate bills specify places where smoking would not be allowed.

Gregory Holzman, the DCH chief medical executive, said he would like communities where people can be healthy. But whether individual residents choose to be healthy is up to them. In Michigan’s current economic state, Holzman said lower socioeconomic groups are at increased risk of being exposed to secondhand smoke. He said they are often forced to work in places where a majority of people smoke.

“I am confidently saying that these individuals have to choose between a paycheck and their health. They either have to inhale secondhand smoke or not get a paycheck,” Holzman said, “and that should not be an option.”

Holzman said there must to be controls on smoking because an average 14,500 residents die from smoking-related diseases and between 930 and 2,600 die from secondhand smoke-related disease every year in Michigan.

The community health department is pushing for completely smoke-free workplaces, including bars and restaurants.

Currently, 21 counties and four cities have passed smoke-free regulations. Those local regulations cannot include restaurants and bars because only state government can impose that restriction, Todd said.

Marquette, Grand Rapids, Detroit and Traverse City have ordinances that prevent smoking inside public buildings. Schoolcraft, Marquette, Washtenaw, Wayne and Saginaw are among counties with smoke-free regulations.

“We aren’t telling people they can or cannot smoke, but we are limiting the places where smoking is done. We are trying to reduce public exposure to the effects of tobacco,” said Todd.

But not everyone agrees on the desirability of a smoking ban.

Rep. Tim Moore, R-Farwell, voted against the smoking ban last year because he didn’t want the state to tell businesses what they can and cannot do.

“To me, that is government becoming too big, when they can come in and say, ‘OK, this is what you can and cannot do here.’”

Moore said an all-out smoking ban would create economic disadvantages. Detroit legislators had problems with a full ban because it would hurt Detroit casinos’ competition with Native American casinos. State government cannot regulate Native American land, which means those casinos could still allow smoking, he said. HQ

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