For Representative Mario Scavello (R-Monroe), it's personal. His father and father-in-law died of cancer. His latest bill would ban smoking in all indoor establishments.
"The effects of second-hand smoke is dangerous to all who are surrounded by it," he said during a press conference introducing House Bill 1485.
Scavello, and supporters like the American Lung Association and American Cancer Society, now say that Pennsylvania's 2008 Clean Indoor Air Act isn't clean enough.
It gives several exemptions to the smoking ban, most notably:
- to restaurants with less than 20 percent revenue from food
- private clubs (VFW's, Legions) and bars
Nearly 3,000 establishments statewide have those exemptions and allow smoking.
HB 1485 would be a complete ban, with no exceptions.
"We shouldn't be requiring employees in casinos, bars and other industries to face health risks associated with second-hand smoke any longer," Scavello said.
Many in the medical community insist the science is clear that second-hand smoke causes cancer.
"This year in Pennsylvania, there will be 11,000 new cases of lung cancer and 7,600 deaths from this disease," said Diane Phillips of the American Cancer Society.
They point to new studies that show a link between heart attacks and second-hand smoke and suggest states with complete smoking bans are healthier.
"Smoke-free laws are responsible for substantially fewer hospitalizations and deaths from heart and respiratory diseases," said Geoffrey Roche of American Heart Association Pa.
Scavello's said he expects opposition from casinos, taverns and the tobacco industry. His bill would ban smoking inside tobacco shops. Bill Graffius is a regular at the store on Second Street in Harrisburg. We caught up with him puffing away on a large stogey.
"This is a great source of fellowship, discussion, friendships made and it would be a shame to lose that," Graffius said. "It's not that it couldn't happen in another venue, but we enjoy gathering together and having a good cigar and good discussions."
Up and down Harrisburg's Restaurant Row, patrons ate outside on the sidewalk in front of restaurants. Some of them smoked. That too would be forbidden under Scavello's bill.
Harrisburg's Ken Thornton, with a dirty ash tray in front of him, protested. "I say no. I'm not for that. I mean outside is outside. If you got 'em, smoke 'em. They banned smoking inside, and I can accept that. But not outside too."
But critics of the current bill say there are too many loopholes to it, and too many businesses are exploiting those loopholes.
One restaurant in Harrisburg bans smoking before 3 p.m. but allows it after 3 p.m. The restaurant next door has a complete ban. The bar across the street doesn't serve food, opens later in the day, and allows smoking.
Many owners say permitting smoking in some establishment and prohibiting it in others puts them at a competitive disadvantage. Scavello agrees and says his complete ban will level the playing field.
There would be no hazy, gray area under his bill, and no exemptions.
"Under current law, we're giving people a reason to break the law," Scavello said. "That's what it is. They're breaking the law."
Scavello's bill is not on the legislative fast-track for now. The budget must be done in June and then summer recess. He said he'd like to see the discussion heat up in the fall and perhaps pass it early next year.
But passing more laws aimed at smokers will continue to make them feel like law breakers when they enjoy a perfectly legal product.
"I do feel like an outcast," said Aaron Robenseifner of New Cumberland, "when someone gives me a weird look when I'm smoking a cigarette in public, walking down the street."
Actually, walking down a public street would be one of the few places smoking would be legal. Also in a private residence and personal automobile. Scavelo's good with that.
"It's legal, but let me tell you something, it's not healthy."