Like it or not, smoked-filled bars may soon be a thing of the past for Philadelphians.
A bill introduced in the Philadelphia City Council on Feb. 2 aims to ban tobacco smoking in all indoor workplaces, including restaurants and bars.
According to its text, the legislation would ban smoking in “any restaurant, bar, coffee shop, cafeteria, sandwich stand, diner, fast food establishment, banquet hall, catering facility, food court,” or any other enclosed space where food or drinks are served. The only exception to the ban would be for special tobacco bars.
This latest attempt to pass a citywide smoking ban comes after last year’s smoking ban bill introduced by Councilman Michael Nutter was denied. The new bill was put forward by Councilwoman Marian Tasco, the Ninth District representative, with the blessing of Nutter.
More than 75 percent of Philadelphians support the ban, according to a public opinion poll conducted last year by the Pennsylvania Alliance to Control Tobacco, an anti-smoking advocacy group.
“It’s a health issue,” Tasco said. “Second hand smoke can cause serious health problems.”
Tobacco smoking is the most prominent cause of preventable illnesses and premature death, killing hundreds of thousands of Americans every year, according to the American Lung Association.
If passed, the smoking ban would add Philadelphia to the growing list of U.S. cities and states that have prohibited smoking in public enclosed spaces, including bars. New Jersey recently passed legislation implementing a ban on indoor smoking statewide, making it the third of Pennsylvania’s neighboring states to do so.
“It motivated me as I listened to the news about the New Jersey ban,” Tasco said. “New York and Delaware have banned it, so we’re surrounded by states that are taking action. I just thought it was time to revisit it again in Philadelphia in the form of a total ban.”
Globally, the popularity of indoor smoking bans has been on the rise since South Africa became the first country to make the move in 2000.
Many European countries, including Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom, have passed national bans on indoor smoking. There is currently no such federal legislation being considered in the United States.
City Council is currently focusing on next year’s budget, but once that process is complete, Tasco said she hopes to have a hearing for the smoking ban bill.
According to Tasco, the bill may come to a vote by early April, but the likelihood of its passage is too close to call.
Erin Long, a junior marketing major at Temple and a cigarette smoker, said she’s been a daily smoker for nearly three years but doesn’t see a problem with the proposed ban.
“Smoking is a personal choice,” Long said. “Those who don’t smoke should be able to go out without having to worry about second-hand smoke.”
One concern that critics of the ban have is that it would adversely affect local businesses, a claim Tasco said has no credence.
“I hope that my colleagues will keep an open mind and certainly think of the broader community and not just a narrow interest group,” Tasco said. “We certainly don’t want to hurt businesses, but we know that smoking is not the reason people go out. They go out to have a drink or they go out to have dinner and enjoy the food.”
John Paul Titlow can be reached at email@example.com.