HARRISBURG — Senators carved loopholes into legislation Monday to ban smoking in many public and work places, inserting partial or complete exemptions for slot-machine parlors, private clubs, bars and cigar bars.
A single amendment creating the exemptions passed, 29-21, setting up the newly changed bill for a final vote as early as today. A similar bill was scheduled for debate in the House later Monday.
Two hours of debate on the bill revolved around protecting public health versus preserving individual liberties, although proponents of the exemptions remained mostly quiet as they were lambasted for watering down legislation for the public good.
It would also upend the smoking ban put in place last year in Philadelphia, which banned smoking in casinos, restaurants and most bars, and outlaw other local governments from enforcing a smoking ban.
“This is a bill that does almost everything that we don’t want and provides exceptions for them,” said Sen. Stewart Greenleaf, R-Montgomery, who has worked for more than a decade to pass such a ban.
Twenty-seven states have approved smoking bans, albeit some with exemptions, and Illinois is poised to become the 28th.