SACRAMENTO (AP) — California was a pioneer in prohibiting tobacco use in the workplace during the 1990s, but the ban left loopholes that a state lawmaker now wants to close.
State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier said other states have since surpassed California and enacted more expansive crackdowns on smoking in the workplace.
He won passage in 2007 of a bill to expand the workplace smoking ban, but it was vetoed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a cigar aficionado who had an outdoor smoking tent erected just outside his office in the Capitol. He has been replaced by a non-smoker, Democrat Jerry Brown.
“We’re going to give it another try with a new governor,” said DeSaulnier, a Democrat from the eastern San Francisco Bay area city of Concord.
California’s 1994 law banned smoking in enclosed areas of most workplaces and phased in a ban at most bars, a relatively radical approach at the time. Now, DeSaulnier said, 25 states and the District of Columbia have smoke-free workplace laws that are stronger than California’s and do a better job of protecting workers from secondhand smoke.
His bill, SB575, would expand the ban to cover employee break rooms, hotel lobbies, meeting and banquet rooms, warehouses, tobacco shops, private residences that are used as family day care homes, and owner-operated businesses, even if they have fewer than five employees. That last exemption category enabled some bars to avoid the smoking ban.
“There’s no risk-free exposure to second-hand smoke,” said Paul Knepprath, a spokesman for the American Lung Association in Sacramento.
The group is co-sponsoring the legislation with the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association.
A 2008 survey for the state Department of Public Health’s California Tobacco Control Program found that nearly one in seven people said they were exposed to second-hand smoke in the workplace.
The bill is opposed by some business groups, including the California Small Business Association and the California Hotel & Lodging Association, but neither is lobbying against it. Most major hotels in California already have smoke-free lobbies and few smoking rooms because that’s what the market demands, lobbyist Randi Knott said.
The bill would not affect workplaces where all the smoking areas are outdoors, such as the Disneyland resort in Anaheim.
Tobacco retailers are putting up more of a fight. The California Association of Retail Tobacconists opposes any statewide ban affecting tobacco shops, group president Charles J. Janigian said. Most smokers are adults, tobacco use is legal, and shops and lounges are “the only safe haven they have to go and enjoy a good cigar or a bowl of pipe tobacco,” he said.
Janigian said the bill as written would even affect private cigar lounges associated with retail stores, such as the new Fat Man Cigars lounge a few blocks from the state Capitol, which has attracted some legislators as members.
DeSaulnier said he is willing to work with the retailers to amend the bill, which is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday before the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee.
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