Senators in California are attempting to pass a bill that would effectively end all smoking in any place where people are employed. This would include tobacco shops, cigar lounges, bars/taverns, hotel lobbies, hookah lounges and warehouses.
It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this section to prohibit the smoking of tobacco products in all (100 percent of) enclosed places of employment in this state, as covered by this section, thereby eliminating the need of local governments to enact workplace smoking restrictions within their respective jurisdictions.*
Senate Bill 575 is the topic of much discussion in California. It could hypothetically do a great deal of damage to businesses all around the state. Many lobbying groups are working against the bill. The group Cigar Rights of America (CRA) has delivered over 35,456 petitions (and growing every day) to members of the California Senate in opposition to the Bill. The CRA is backed by some of the biggest names in commercial tobacco products, including A. Fuente Cigars, Ashton Cigars, La Flor Dominicana, Rocky Patel Cigars, Old Virginia Tobacco Company, Corona Cigar Company, Padron Cigar Company and General Cigar, as well as the great number of Tobacco enthusiast the group attracts.
Members of the CRA and its advocates have expressed fairly homogenous opinions on the matter in online blog posts and forum discussions. They see the impending legislation as an imposition to their personal freedoms and also recognize the potential effect on many tobacco shops, bars and other businesses that generally accept smoking indoors. Experience shows that banning smoking from businesses can do a considerable amount of damage to overall profit. Smoking was banned in Casinos in the Navajo Nation area of Arizona in late April of this year. Other Navajo Nation Casinos have reported as much as a 25% decrease in total income in dealing with smoking bans and restrictions. Similar effects are expected for California businesses if SB 575 is signed into law.
Senators Mark DeSaulniers and Jerry Hill, Democrats from Walnut Creek and San Mateo respectively, introduced the bill in an attempt to eliminate second-hand smoke dangers to employees of the establishments mentioned in the bill. Anti-Smoking campaigns are in strong support of the legislation, citing the oft-referenced second-hand smoke fatality figures, dangers to pregnant or expecting mothers and nearly all the same arguments and debate points that have been around for decades. Those opposed to the bill state that people that work in these establishments do so with the expectation of encountering second-hand smoke. Many are calling SB 575 a desperate grab for more regulatory power and greater income by the California state government, highlighting passages in the bill such as:
In the event this section is repealed or modified by subsequent legislative or judicial action so that the (100-percent) smoking prohibition is no longer applicable to all enclosed places of employment and owner-operated businesses in California, local governments shall have the full right and authority to enforce previously enacted, and to enact and enforce new, restrictions on the smoking of tobacco products in enclosed places of employment and owner-operated businesses within their jurisdictions, including a complete prohibition of smoking.*
The above passage gives local governments the right to re-enact repealed sections of the bill, ensuring that if any California locality is short on revenue (most of them are, currently) they can pass restrictive tobacco laws and penalize non-compliant individuals. The fines are steep, and could serve as a major source of income for economically-at-risk localities.
Any violation of the prohibition set forth in subdivision (c) is an infraction, punishable by a fine not to exceed one hundred dollars ($100) for a first violation, two hundred dollars ($200) for a second violation within one year, and five hundred dollars ($500) for a third and for each subsequent violation within one year.*
With the onslaught of tobacco legislation and regulation nation-wide, enthusiasts find themselves wondering where they’re going to be able to light up and enjoy as the legislative noose tightens on their passion. Both proponents and opponents of the bill encourage those interested to read the full text of the bill, which can be found here. Also, if you are interested in joining the fight against the legislation you can learn more about the CRA here.
*California State Senate Bill 575, by Mark DeSaulniers
This Article was contributed by one of our feature guest reporters Alex Haler, a distinguished Broadcast Journalism student at the Walter Cronkite School of Broadcast Journalism at ASU.