Feb. 13, 2006--After five years of failed attempts, caused as much by political infighting as by public opposition, Philadelphia lawmakers are pushing ahead with plans that would ban smoking in all workplaces.
While many of the cities that passed anti-smoking laws in recent years initially faced strong opposition from local business owners, the push to ban butts in Philadelphia appears to be benefiting from greater acceptance as such laws become more commonplace.
The bill, which was introduced to City Council on Feb. 2 by Councilwoman Marian Tasco, seeks to ban smoking in all workplaces and follows a similar bill proposed by Councilman Michael Nutter a year ago. After a number of amendments, Nutter's bill failed to gain enough support from the council's 17 members.
"I think politics came into play with [Nutter's] bill," Tasco said. "There's a struggle between Nutter and [Mayor John Street] that's been going on for years." Tasco said she is revisiting the issue to see if a new face on the movement will have an affect on Street.
Tasco needs just one more co-sponsor to make eight -- the magical number that will put the bill in front of the mayor. "I'd like to have at least 10, in case someone changes their mind," Tasco said.
With a number of cities finding that smoking bans have had little or no effect on the bottom line, restaurants and bars in the City of Brotherly Love are greeting the potential ban optimistically -- especially with similar bans already in effect in neighboring states. "The bottom line is, people who want to come out and have a good time will continue to do so," said Ron Smicker, manager at the Fox & Hound Smokehouse & Tavern, which also sells cigarettes and cigars.
Smicker worked at a restaurant in Delaware while it was adapting to its smoking ban in 2002. "Everyone was up in arms but in the end everything was fine," he said.
"I can speak for myself and the owner when I say we are both fine with [the smoking ban] if it happens," said Melissa Wentzell, manager of Amada. Although Amada has a separate smoking section, Wentzell said she didn't think the smoking ban would ultimately hurt business.
Tasco said that one of her toughest problems is that many council members don't want to cause problems for their constituents, some of who own or run restaurants and bars. She is hoping that the smoking ban in the surrounding states will help gain support for her legislation.
Connecticut, New York, and Delaware are already smoke free, and New Jersey is set to go smoke free in April.
If Tasco gets the support she needs from the council, a public hearing will be planned for late March or early April.