Ohio bill would ease restrictions on indoor smoking at private clubs

Cigarette, Smoke, Ashtray
FILE - In this Saturday, March 2, 2013, photo, a cigarette burns in an ashtray. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio lawmakers will consider adding a new exception to the state’s indoor smoking ban in a proposal that would allow smoking at more private clubs.

The idea would allow smoking in cigar clubs and other private organizations even if the club is adjacent to other buildings, such as within a strip mall.

Representatives with the American Lung Association in Ohio, American Heart Association and American Cancer Society are against the idea.

Ohio Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, and Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, are sponsoring the legislation that was introduced this past week.

“I think it would be good for economic development, not only in the Mahoning Valley but in other urban areas where there would be a desire for this,” Schiavoni said.

Other states with indoor-smoking bans allow smoking in private cigar clubs, he told The Columbus Dispatch.

The legislation also would allow smoking in private clubs with one occupant or if multiple occupants have separate ways to get outside. It also would remove a requirement that a club must be a nonprofit and not have employees.

Shelly Kiser, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Ohio, said the bill is not limited to cigars.

“That’s a big problem,” she said. “It’s not a cigar-bar bill. It’s allowing clubs to have all forms of tobacco in them.”

The state’s smoking ban, approved by voters 10 years ago, allows smoking in private clubs if they are in free-standing buildings, have no employees and are nonprofit entities. The Ohio Department of Health says tobacco products cannot be smoked in clubs that share a wall with another structure.

Kiser said the proposed smoking ban exceptions would make workers choose between their health and making a living.

“That goes against what the Smoke-Free Workplace Act was all about,” she said.

Schiavoni said he is willing to listen to suggested changes to the bill.

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