Tuesday, February 10, 2009

House of Delegates Guts Already-Weakened Smoking Bill

The smoking ban compromise struck by Gov. Tim Kaine and House Speaker William Howell wasn't ideal, but it was a good start.

Unfortunately, the House of Delegates weakened the bill so severely last night, you can't even call it a smoking ban anymore:
Amendments would permit smoking in rooms separated by doors, even if there is no separate ventilation system. They carved out exceptions for smoking in outdoor patio areas; at restaurants during private functions when the function takes up the entire restaurant; and at clubs or bars at times when under-age patrons are not admitted.
As Del. Adam Ebbin twittered, "It seems more like a non-smoking SECTION bill than a non-smoking restaurant bill."

The Senate and Gov. Kaine need to work to strengthen the bill. If House Republicans won't support a stronger bill, then smoking ban supporters should let them go to the voters this fall and explain why they wouldn't protect our children from the effects of secondhand smoke. Even the Bush administration's own Surgeon General pointed out there's no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

Meanwhile, I enjoyed the comments of Virginia's Republican Party chair, Del. Jeff Frederick, who said, "As much as I personally would love a smoking ban, it's not my job to tell small-business owners what they can and cannot allow in their small businesses."

Really? I look forward to Del. Frederick introducing legislation to roll back fire codes, food safety regulations, and the drinking age. Clearly we can't tell small businesses what to do, can we, Del. Frederick?
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