Michigan Lawmakers Take Big Step Towards Smoking Ban

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A state House committee on Tuesday approved legislation that would ban smoking in the workplace, including bars and restaurants.

The House Commerce Committee's 12-4 vote is considered a major step by health groups and other members of a coalition who favor the smoking ban. But the proposal still has a long way to go before it could become state law.

The bill now goes to the House floor for the chamber's consideration. The bill also would have to pass the Senate and get Gov. Jennifer Granholm's signature to become law.

The legislation is opposed by the Michigan Restaurant Association and some bar and restaurant owners who say business owners ought to be able to decide for themselves whether to allow smoking.

Those groups say customer demand is adequately driving decisions about where smoking is allowed. The state has nearly twice as many smoke-free restaurants and taverns than it did a decade ago, according to the restaurant association.

More than half the states have enacted some sort of ban on smoking in public or workplace areas, according to supporters of the Michigan campaign. Some of those bans don't apply to restaurants and bars.

The proposal headed to the Michigan House floor would cover most businesses, but would exempt cigar bars and smoke shops.

"We are moving Michigan forward on health issues," said Rep. Brenda Clack, a Democrat from Flint and a main sponsor of the legislation.

An amendment that would have exempted casinos, private clubs and places with liquor licenses failed.

Some Republicans argued that the state shouldn't mettle in setting rules for private clubs.

"You have a choice about whether or not to enter," Rep. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, said of private clubs.

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