In what some critics call a blow to small businesses, Philadelphia's City Council narrowly passed a bill on Thursday that would ban smoking from nearly all workplaces -- including bars and restaurants.
The bill now awaits the signature of Mayor John Street, who has hinted at his support.
The council's vote ends a six-year push by Councilman Michael A. Nutter, the original sponsor of the bill, to ban smoking in the city. The bill passed after members agreed to sponsor a companion bill introduced by Councilman Frank DiCicco that would allow permanent exemptions for certain outdoor cafes, private clubs, and small taverns. Nutter's bill allowed only temporary exemptions.
"Councilman DiCicco was always a supporter of a smoking ban," said Brian Abernathy, DiCicco's legislative aid. The councilman's main concern, Abernathy said, is that neighborhood bars will lose customers to nearby cities and towns that do allow smoking.
The bill covers 99% of the workplaces in Philadelphia, with which Nutter said he is satisfied.
"We have an opportunity to move Philadelphia a giant step forward," Nutter said. "I'm confident the mayor will pass the bill, based on reports from other members who have talked to him."
Abernathy said he agrees that early indications favor the bill.
If and when Street signs the bill, the ban would take effect in January 2007. Philadelphia would join nearby New York, Washington, and the state of New Jersey in becoming smoke-free.