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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 21, 2006

Proposed smoking ban advances

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Government Writer

A bill that would ban smoking at workplaces and in enclosed public areas appears to be one step closer to law after House and Senate conference committee members came to an agreement yesterday.

Details of the compromise will be revealed at a 9:45 a.m. hearing today, when the committee decides whether to approve it. The last version of the bill prohibited smoking at all workplaces, including bars and restaurants. State correctional facilities would be exempted, at their request.

Enclosed or partially enclosed public places were also part of the last draft. That would include any public places that have a roof and two walls.

"We're not really talking about homes or cars or the beach or the park," said Deborah Zysman, executive director of the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawai'i. "This is really to protect workers' health."

If the bill passes through the conference committee today, it will still have to pass the full House and Senate before it can take effect.

"In our mind, it's definitely not over yet," Zysman said. "We're still pushing for it until it's done."

If it should pass and be signed into law by Gov. Linda Lingle, Hawai'i would become the 12th state in the nation with a comprehensive secondhand smoking bill.

The goal of the bill is to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke by prohibiting smoking in places open to the public.

Experts say secondhand smoke causes too many health problems, including heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and lung cancer in nonsmokers. According to the bill, it contributes to thousands of premature deaths and illnesses in Hawai'i each year.

In 2004, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an advisory to those with heart disease to avoid indoor places where smoking is allowed, which the bill's authors say warrants increased protections for the public.

Counties have their own laws to curb smoking for instance, Honolulu has banned smoking in restaurants but a state law would ensure basic protection statewide.

Another bill aimed at curbing smoking itself also is being considered by the same conference committee. This bill would raise the tax on each cigarette, making it more expensive to buy cigarettes, and lawmakers hope, deter more young people from picking up the habit.

Reach Treena Shapiro at tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.