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Mobile Press-Register - Public Smoking Ban Passes Senate

News Article

Location: Montgomery, AL

Smoking would be banned in most indoor public places in Alabama under a bill approved by the state Senate on Wednesday.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile, forbids smoking in restaurants, sporting arenas and many other indoor areas. It also would apply to bars that make at least 20 percent of their money from food sales.

Figures sponsored a 2003 law that prohibited smoking in some public places, but had been unable to win an expansion of the ban until Wednesday.

"I'm ecstatic," Figures said after the vote. "We've been very patient, very prayerful, very faithful. We're confident we're going to pass the House."

The bill provides exemptions for private dwellings, certain motel and nursing home rooms, and private clubs.

"I wanted bars to be smoke-free, too, but this is what we had to compromise on," Figures said.

Smoking outside of restaurants and other establishments would be OK if the smoker stayed at least 10 feet from doors and windows.

Establishments would be required to post 'No Smoking' signs; violators would face a $100 fine for the first offense, a $200 fine for a subsequent offense in the same year, and $300 for each subsequent violation within the calendar year.

A similar bill, sponsored by state Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin,

R-Pelham, passed the House Government Operations Committee on Wednesday morning.

State Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, attempted to amend the Figures bill to extend some of the exemptions to small businesses.

"This being America, people have the right, I believe, to make bad decisions," said Pittman, who explained that he opposes smoking.

Pittman's amendments were defeated after Figures said they would water down the bill. State Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, criticized Republicans for wanting senators to vote on the smoking ban but filibustering a local referendum to expand gambling in Macon County.

Figures, who suffers from asthma and has made anti-smoking bills a major part of her 11-year Senate career, gave a sometimes heated reply to Pittman while at the podium, saying later that she is "very passionate" about the issue.

"I was pretty on edge," she said.

The bill had been placed on a special order calendar Tuesday but fell victim to a filibuster that evening, brought by state Sen. Ben Brooks, R-Mobile, who was upset his coastal insurance bills were not put before the Senate for a vote.

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