A sign in the window of First Capital Dispensing Co. announces its smoking policy. New legislation may seek to ban indoor smoking at establishments.
A sign in the window of First Capital Dispensing Co. announces its smoking policy. New legislation may seek to ban indoor smoking at establishments. (BILL KALINA — bkalina@yorkdispatch.com)
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The ladies who visit Hodle Tavern in New Freedom don't have to have wash their hair before bed anymore now that owners at the little Front Street bar and restaurant decided to ban smoking.

But their water would be running after visits to dozens of other York County establishments that are not smoke-free. Those places could become so under a proposed expansion of the Clean Indoor Air Act.

And while the ladies might sign up for that, area legislators haven't.

No Yorkers are among the 17 co-sponsors of the bill, which hasn't gotten the traction needed to be voted on before the full House despite some big-name health organizations pushing the change.

The proposal (HB 1485) from Rep. Mario Scavello, R-Monroe County, has been sitting in the human services committee since being introduced in June, and this is at least the third time the bill has been introduced.

The bill aims to remove numerous exceptions that were provided in the Clean Indoor Air Act of 2008, under which smoking was banned from food-serving establishments, including bars with more than 20 percent revenue from food sales.

Under the new proposal, smoking would be banned in places that include all bars and private clubs, on casino floors, in hotel guest rooms, and outdoor decks and patios at bars and restaurants, all of which were exceptions in 2008.

Electronic cigarettes would be included in the ban.


'What smoke?': Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus, served in the conference committee that passed the original legislation, for which he voted, in 2008.

Miller said this week he can see a little room for improvement, but not the sweeping overhaul called for in Scavello's bill.

"I think the law is working pretty well right now," he said. "Our biggest chance of making a change might be casinos, making them either smoke-free or make a full partition between the smoking and nonsmoking (sections). That was probably the biggest flaw when we passed the bill."

Miller said he was able to smell smoke in the non-smoking section of Hollywood Casino in Grantville, but it was minimal compared to the plumes of secondhand smoke non-smokers inhaled before the law was passed.

"Back then, we probably would've said, 'What smoke?' because we were so used to it," he said.

Attitudes have changed in the years since the original bill was passed, he said, and some establishments are voluntarily banning smoking completely because most patrons don't want it.

At Hodle Tavern: Denie Bazuine, co-owner at Hodle Tavern, said he and his partners voluntary banned smoking Sept. 1 to cater more to the families that use the nearby York County Heritage Rail Trail and Steam Into History train attraction.

The business lost some loyal smokers who visited specifically for the smoking, but it's still too early to tell the overall effect on sales, he said.

"We seem to be doing better at this time of year then we were last year," he said. "But it has taken a while for the nonsmokers to figure out that we were nonsmoking."

While some smokers were turned away, other loyal customers enjoyed the change, he said.

"The ladies said when they left (before the change) they couldn't go to bed without taking a shower because their hair smelled like smoke," he said.

Eventually, Miller said, customers and not the legislators will decide whether establishments are nonsmoking.

"I don't think we'll get the votes to go 100 percent smoke-free, and I don't think I'd support that," he said. "The market will decide how many (smoking establishments) there are."

Balancing act: Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, said the current law strikes "a fair compromise between the rights of those who do want to smoke and those who don't want to be around smoking."

He said there's a delicate balance of protecting three interests — health, personal freedom, and money — some of the same competing concerns when the state discusses taxation.

Pennsylvania makes $1.60 in tax money for every pack of cigarettes sold in the state. Increasing the tax decreases smoking, which is good for health. But the state doesn't want to increase it too much because then people will go to other states to buy cigarettes and the state will lose money, he said.

Rep. Mike Regan, R-Carroll Township, said there could be economic effects from making every establishment smoke-free, and he cited the protests of tavern owners who have said they'll lose business if the ban is expanded.

"If you're a smoker and you want to go out for the evening and you can't go without your smokes, you might just stay home," he said.

Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, said a restaurant owner from his district asked him to "level the playing field" by either lifting the ban at all establishments or enforcing it at all establishments.

"He thinks he's losing money because competitors allow smoking," he said. "The last thing we want to do is have laws that consequently (harm) other businesses."

Schreiber said he "generally supports the concept" of expanding the ban, but he's concerned about businesses it could hurt.

"I think it's a balancing act and I don't know if there's a right answer."

— Reach Christina Kauffman at ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.