Several anti-smoking bills fail in agriculture committees - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Several anti-smoking bills fail in agriculture committees

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A proposal that would prohibit smoking within 25 yards of a hospital was among several that failed in House Agriculture committees and are likely dead for the session.

The measure sponsored by Rep. Johnny Shaw, a Bolivar Democrat, failed 9-6 in the Agriculture Committee on Tuesday, while the others either failed or were taken off notice in an earlier subcommittee.

The companion to Shaw's measure failed in the Senate earlier this month, even though Shaw said it would have been reconsidered had the measure passed committee.

Opponents of the legislation say it's not necessary because hospitals can currently set such bans without a statewide mandate.

But Meagan Frazier, a lobbyist for the Tennessee Hospital Association, said the legislation is needed to make sure all hospitals comply and is simply "good public policy."

"It still allows people to smoke on the grounds, but it doesn't allow people to come through smoke at the doors," of the hospitals, she said.

Rep. Eric Swafford, R-Pikeville, agreed.

This is protecting the health of our citizens," he said before voting for the bill.

However, Rep. John Litz said he voted against the bill because such measures would eventually lead to a blanket smoking ban.

The state's indoor smoking ban went into effect in October. The ban applies to most indoor businesses and public places, and requires that the international "No Smoking" symbol be posted at all entrances.

"If you do this, I encourage those in the health care industry to serve up the statewide ban," said the Morristown Democrat. "This is the first step in getting that."

Another bill that failed for lack of a motion in the earlier subcommittee would have prohibited smoking in certain vehicles when a minor is present, and a similar bill was taken off notice.       Also taken off notice was a measure that would have expanded smoking prohibitions on school grounds. However, the companion bill is detained in the Senate Education Committee.

The only bill that passed the Agriculture Committee on Tuesday would exempt churches from the state law provision that requires "No Smoking" signs be posted at their entrances. The companion bill has unanimously passed the Senate.

The House Agriculture Committee has traditionally favored tobacco interests, although recent measures to restrict smoking have passed, such as last year's cigarette tax increase and workplace smoking ban.


(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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