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Health Advocates are Battling More Exceptions to Ohio's Public Smoking Ban


One of the sponsors of a bill that would expand the exemptions to Ohio’s indoor-smoking ban says he’s willing to consider changes to address concerns of anti-smoking advocates. But as WKSU’s M.L. Schultze reports, that’s unlikely to sooth those concerns.

The bill sponsored by Senate Democratic Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni and Republican Bill Seitz would allow smoking clubs in strip malls, and no longer restrict them only to nonprofit organizations with no employees.

"The bill is not intended to infringe on the rights of nonsmokers at all."

  Schiavoni says the idea is to allow so-called cigar clubs to set up in buildings that house multiple businesses, so long as they each have separate entrances and exits.

"The bill is not intended to infringe on the rights of nonsmokers at all. It’s only for folks that want to belong to these private clubs. It would allow for cigar clubs to go into a lot of of our urban areas, smaller communities that want to have these cigar club.”

Schiavoni acknowledges that the current language would extend beyond cigars to cigarettes and says he’s open to changing that.

But that’s unlikely to change the opposition of health advocates to legislators altering a ban that voters passed 10 years ago. The American Lung Association’Shelly Kiser says the ban was created to protect workers from having to choose between their health and having a job.  

“Just by opening it up to more places allowing smoking is exposing more people to second- hand smoke, so I don’t see how you could change it in any way except to just not exempt more places.”

She also maintains that cigars are not safe as some people perceive.

"You’re still breathing in similar toxic chemicals as cigarettes, and you’re risking those same dangerous diseases.”

Schiavoni says the people who work at the clubs would be self-selecting, and that many voters thought private clubs would be exempt when they passed the law in 2006.

"It would put the health of the workers in the business adjacent to the club in danger, too."

"Obviously they would be people who are comfortable working in this setting. And I understand that they’re trying to protect all employees in any and all circumstances from any kind of smoke. But in this particular situation it would be up to that individual as to whether they want to work in these facilities.”

But that leads to another concern of the Lung Association’s Kiser about the bill: allowing the clubs in buildings that house multiple businesses.

“It would put the health of the workers in the business adjacent to the club in danger too because it is absolutely impossible to prevent the migration of smoke between businesses."

Schiavoni says he understands the concerns but it’s worth “having a conversation” about a narrowly tailored exception.