Senate votes to ban smoking

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(Host) The Vermont Senate has voted to ban smoking in virtually all public places. The major debate over the bill came on a provision that prohibits smoking in private clubs.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) When lawmakers passed a bill a number of years ago that banned smoking in restaurants and many public places, the proposal included a provision that exempted bars from the legislation – it was known as the cabaret exemption.

Now the Legislature is moving to eliminate that exemption and extend the ban to include private clubs such as those run by the American Legion and the VFW.

Senate Natural Resources chairperson, Ginny Lyons, told her colleagues that second-hand smoke in bars is very detrimental to the health of both employees and patrons.

(Lyons) “Mr. President, I don’t think any one of us would go stand down stream of International Paper Company, expose ourselves to the effluent from a tire burn or other burn in place. And yet, everyday, a worker who is in a cabaret – it does exacting that when there is a smoke filled room.”

(Kinzel) Lyons argued that passage of the bill would have a positive impact on the health of many Vermonters:

(Lyons) “The point is, Mr. President, second- hand smoke is significant in our health care environment. Taking this one risk out of workplaces and public places would significantly reduce the costs in our population. Taking this one risk out of public places will make us healthier Vermonters.”

(Kinzel) By a vote of 18-10, the Senate defeated an amendment to exempt private service clubs from the ban.

Essex-Orleans senator, Vincent Illuzzi, proposed a five-year exemption for veterans’ organizations to recognize the enormous contribution that these individuals have given to their country.

(Illuzzi) “And some of those remaining living members of that great generation who helped to save the entire world from the likes of Stalin and Hitler and the maniacal Japanese government have asked me – perhaps they’ve asked some of you – to allow them for the next several years to allow this exemption to continue.”

(Kinzel) Chittenden senator, Jim Leddy, urged members of the Senate to oppose the exemption.

(Leddy) “It’s not a question of patriotism. It’s not a question of loyalty. It’s not a question really of the flag. It’s a question of health. It’s a question of fairness. And the fairness question is: Are some people entitled to being exposed to second hand smoke while others aren’t? It’s a question of: Are some clubs given preference over other clubs?”

(Kinzel) The senate bill is very similar to a plan passed by the House earlier this year. Governor, Jim Douglas, doesn’t support the idea of a statewide ban and thinks the decision should be made on a town by town basis. But Douglas says he’ll sign the bill when it reaches his desk.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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