Cigarette, restaurant industries join to fight smoking ban
TALLAHASSEE â€” A new lobbying group including Philip Morris USA has formed to block a proposed smoking ban in restaurants.
The Committee for Responsible Solutions will fund a media blitz against the proposed constitutional amendment to outlaw smoking in restaurants â€” except for outdoor seating areas â€” and enclosed workplaces, including employee break rooms, said lobbyist Tom Slade on Tuesday.
The group will also propose a competing amendment that would let Florida voters choose to add existing smoking laws â€” limiting smoking areas to 30 percent of restaurant seating â€” to the constitution, said Slade, who is a former chairman of the Florida Republican Party.
Other members of the group include the Florida Restaurant Association, the Florida Hotel & Motel Association and Associated Industries of Florida.
Slade said tobacco dollars "will be a significant aspect of the funding," but Philip Morris is the only tobacco company publicly backing the new amendment.
Other tobacco companies, including Lorillard Tobacco Co., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and the Cigar Association of America, are fighting the proposed smoking ban separately.
The wording of the smoking ban amendment will be argued Thursday in the Florida Supreme Court.
"We can sit idly and watch small-business owners have their choices taken away or we can do something about it," Slade said. "It gives me a lot of pause to say to people who have scrimped and saved to start a business that you no longer have any right to accommodate your customers."
The group in favor the smoking ban, called Smoke-Free for Health, includes the American Lung, Cancer and Heart associations. It has raised nearly $2 million and collected more than 500,000 signatures, enough to put the proposed amendment on the November ballot.
"No one should have to endure secondhand smoke to hold a job, patronize a business or enjoy a meal in a restaurant," said Martin Larsen, volunteer chairman of Smoke-Free for Health.