New Bill Could Place Smoking Laws in Local Governments' Hands


  • Tobacco Free Kids

The places where smoking is permitted in the city could soon change if a new state bill passes that puts smoking policies in the control of local governments.

The Local Option Bill, sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, would repeal the tobacco preemption clause, which says that state law trumps local laws pertaining to where smoking is prohibited.

The new bill would allow municipal governments to create their own policies to regulate smoking in certain areas.

Those areas include hotels, parks, public property, age-restricted venues, and private clubs, according to the bill.

Currently in Memphis, per city ordinance, smoking is only illegal in public elevators, on city buses, in retail stores, at the Mid-South Coliseum, the Cook Convention Center, as well as any theater, hall, hotel, or public building “that smoking is dangerous.”

“As written today, the state law is ignoring the will of the people in local communities who desire smoke-free air,” Bob Ramsey, chairman of the State Government Committee, said. “The air we breathe is a public safety matter — no one should be forced to walk around in a cloud of poison.

“Telling a community you have control over your smoking-related policy is simply the right thing to do,” Ramsey continued.

Officials with the American Heart Association believe that passing the bill will reduce health issues related to secondhand smoke, like cardiovascular disease.

More than 41,200 non-smoking Americans die from heart disease and lung cancer each year due to exposure to secondhand smoke, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“It is 2018, yet so many Tennesseans are not given an option to breath clean air,” Christian Marks, chairperson of the American Heart Association’s Tennessee State Advocacy Committee said. “The choice is to limit the places they visit or risk being exposed to secondhand smoke.”

The association is one of several organizations that comprise a coalition supporting the bill. Other organizations backing the bill include the American Cancer Society, Cancer Action Network, Americans for Nonsmokers Rights, the American Lung Association, and Tobacco Free Kids.

A study done by Tobacco Free Kids showed that annually in Tennessee smoking directly leads to $2.67 billion in healthcare costs and $3.59 billion in productivity loss.

If passed, the bill will go into effect on July 1.

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