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Daily Newscasts

Smoking Ban Legislation Gaining Momentum

March 3, 2009

Pierre, SD – Will the second time be the charm? Anti-tobacco and clean air advocates are hoping for a different outcome today, when the South Dakota Senate revisits legislation to extend the workplace smoking ban.

South Dakota already has a smoke-free workplace law, and the current push is to expand it. HB 1240 would include restaurants, bars and video lottery casinos.

Jennifer Stalley, project director of the South Dakota Tobacco-Free Kids Network, says the measure passed by a large margin in the House and was also unanimously approved in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Monday. The House bill is slightly different than the Senate's original version, she explains, which was defeated earlier by just one vote.

"We've made some exemptions for hotel rooms, cigar bars and tobacco retail stores that are new to the bill since the Senate looked at it last time. And certainly, we're optimistic that the Senate will have an opportunity to see the House bill with these amendments, and pass it on to the governor for his review and approval."

Opponents fear extending the smoking ban to bars, restaurants and casinos could seriously hurt their business, although Stallings cites long-term studies in other states showing the overall effects of such bans have either been neutral or positive.

"We know that some of the economic issues opponents are raising, such as bars closing in Minnesota or liquor licenses going away in Iowa, simply aren't true. We've looked at them since the smoke-free laws went into place in neighboring states, and those businesses weren't negatively impacted in the way the opponents are trying to tell folks that they have been."

According to Stalley, a recent 500-person poll shows 80 percent of the respondents consider secondhand smoke a health hazard, and that bipartisan support for stronger indoor smoke-free laws cuts across all demographic groups.

David Law, Public News Service - SD