Thursday, September 06, 2007

Smoking ban for Pa. restaurants? No, thank you

Smoking ban for Pa. restaurants? No, thank you

Fewer than half of people polled think the state should ban smoking in restaurants and bars.



Lancaster New Era


Published: Sep 06, 2007 11:19 AM EST


LANCASTER COUNTY, PA - Nine in 10 Pennsylvanians agree: Second-hand smoke is harmful.


But when it comes to the idea of a statewide ban, most folks think the government should just butt out.


That finding is contained in a wide-ranging statewide poll out of Franklin & Marshall College today.


"Pennsylvania has a contrarian streak on government intervention," said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Keystone Poll and head of F&M's Center for Politics and Public Affairs.


"I'm not saying we're the Wild West here or anything. It's just that the response surprised me as much as any," he added.


The poll, which largely focused on presidential and statewide politics, asked the smoking question of 585 adult residents of the state. The margin of error is 4.1 percentage points.


While 90 percent said they believe second-hand smoke is either very or somewhat harmful, fewer than half — 46 percent — think the state should ban smoking in restaurants and bars. The Legislature is set to consider such a ban this fall.


Most of those surveyed, 53 percent, think the decision on whether to allow smoking in such places is best left to individual business owners.


The results did not surprise Amy Christie, who is executive director of the Pennsylvania Tavern Association, which opposes the proposed ban.


"The argument has never been that second-hand smoke is healthy," she said. "The argument has been that adults should be able to chose to enter establishments that provide smoking areas for their clientele or not.


"And as long as state government is collecting over $1.4 billion in tax revenue a year from tobacco, I feel like they should not be able to put a mandate on adult establishments," Christie said.


"We're not talking McDonald's and Hoss's. We're talking about liquor-license establishments, small businesses that families have built up over decades."


Ray Hottenstein, owner of The Olde Greenfield Inn and former president of Pennsylvania Restaurant Association, doesn't see it that way. He has been a staunch supporter of a statewide smoking ban and has prohibited lighting up in his East Lampeter Township establishment.


"I don't like government interfering with my business either," he said. "In this case it is about something more important, and that is the health of our employees.


"This is not about banning smoking in bars and restaurants. This is a public health issue."


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