This session, health advocates and lawmakers may seek to remove exemptions to the state’s clean indoor air act, which bans smoking in most workplaces.
Rep. Tracy Steele, D-North Little Rock, who was the lead sponsor for the Clean Indoor Act of 2006 when he was in the State Senate, tells Talk Business, "We are certainly looking at eliminating some exemptions, although nothing’s been finalized yet." To date, no legislation has been filed on the issue in the 88th General Assembly.
The Arkansas Clean Indoor Air Act, which was passed during a special legislative session during Gov. Mike Huckabee’s tenure, went into effect on July 21, 2006. It requires most workplaces to be smoke-free; however, a number of exceptions were placed in the law. They include:
- Bars and restaurants that exclude those under the age of 21
- Workplaces with fewer than 3 employees
- Gaming halls at Oaklawn and Southland racetracks
- Hotels and motels with less than 25 rooms
- Retail tobacco stores
- Designated areas for patients at long-term care facilities
"We want a more comprehensive and fair policy for all workers," Steele said.
State health officials have also indicated that enforcement of the smoking ban in places where exemptions exist has complicated efforts to comply with the law.
A spokesperson for one of the key organizations that led the push for the 2006 law said her group encourages efforts to build on the measure.
"We feel all workers deserve clean air to breathe," said Barbara Kumpe, Arkansas governmental affairs director for the American Heart Association.
Kumpe added that her group, which was part of a broad coalition of health organizations that supported the Clean Indoor Air Act, has not made any final decisions on exemptions it would support.