Petition drive seeks to ban smoking in workplaces
TALLAHASSEE -- (AP) -- The state constitution would ban all smoking in restaurants and workplaces under an amendment proposed today by a coalition of health groups and advocates for children and the elderly.
``I don't think there's anything more appropriate for the constitution of the state of Florida than the right of people to breathe clean air,'' said Marty Larsen, the chairman of Smoke-Free for Health, the official sponsor of the measure.
The amendment would outlaw smoking in restaurants -- except for outdoor seating areas -- and enclosed workplaces, including employee break rooms.
A few 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 Larsen and other supporters of the amendment said that restricting smoking to one area doesn't work.
``All ventilation systems do are take clean air out and pump it into dirty air,'' he said. ``They don't extract secondhand smoke.''
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.
The measure is backed by the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, the AARP of Florida and the Center for Florida's Children.
The groups have to collect half a million signatures by next summer to get on the ballot and convince the state Supreme Court their proposal deals with just one subject and is fairly explained on the ballot.
According to Smoke-Free for Health, more than 70,000 Florida businesses allow smoking somewhere on their premises and 12,000 restaurants allow smoking.
The American Cancer Society says that exposes more than 5 1/2 million people in Florida to secondhand smoke every week and nearly 800,000 Floridians to secondhand smoke every day.