Move to ban smoking in restaurants, workplace goes to high court
TALLAHASSEE â€” Sponsors of a petition drive to ban all smoking in restaurants and workplaces say they hit the 500,000 mark Monday with a signature from a Tallahassee restaurateur.
"Half a million Floridians have registered a complaint against secondhand smoke," said Martin Larsen, chairman of Smoke-Free for Health.
To get its proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot, Smoke-Free needs 488,722 verified signatures and a stamp of approval from the Florida Supreme Court, which reviews all citizen initiatives for scope and clarity.
Election officials across the state have reported verifying 240,000 signatures, but a lag time between collections and verification is normal.
The state's high court will hear oral arguments next week. It's review is limited to two issues: Does the constitutional amendment deal with only one subject, and is it fairly explained in the ballot title and summary?
The amendment would outlaw smoking in restaurants â€” except for outdoor seating areas â€” and enclosed workplaces, including employee break rooms.
Exceptions would be made for stand-alone bars, designated guest rooms in hotels, and home businesses that don't provide child care.
The Florida Clean Indoor Air Act now limits smoking in public places to designated smoking areas. Public places include government buildings, stores, restaurants, theaters and workplaces.
But the groups sponsoring the amendment say restricting smoking to one area doesn't work.
More than 70,000 Florida businesses allow smoking somewhere on their premises and 12,000 restaurants allow smoking, according to Smoke-Free for Health.
The Environmental Protection Agency designated secondhand smoke a carcinogen in 1993 and estimates that 3,000 American nonsmokers die each year from lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke.
Tallahassee restaurateur John Henningsen, owner of Goodies Eatery, said his business isn't hurt because smoking is banned.
"Tobacco smoke does not belong around people who are trying to enjoy a meal," Henningsen said before signing the petition.