On behalf of its Board of Governors and member companies who employ nearly 125,000 people in the region, the Manufacturers’ Association of Northwest Pennsylvania notified Erie County Council on Friday that it would file a lawsuit to stop the county’s smoking ban ordinance, the Smokefree Air Act of 2006, if the law is not repealed.

In a letter addressed to Erie County Executive Mark DiVecchio and Council Chairman Fiore Leone, Manufacturers’ Association President Ralph Pontillo announced the Association’s plans to seek legal action, after receiving overwhelming response to a smoking-ban poll that was faxed to members and posted on the Association’s Web site on January 17.

Within just a few short hours, more than 20 percent of those surveyed responded with the following results: Sixty-two percent said they believe government has no right to restrict smoking in privately owned public places and places of employment; 57 percent said the Manufacturers’ Association should actively oppose the smoking ban.

“This morning,” Pontillo said, “the Manufacturers’ Association Board of Governors formally directed that the Association actively oppose Ordinance Number 178, 2006.”

According to the Association, the smoking ban ordinance is vague and will create yet additional burden upon Erie County employers. More importantly, the Association maintains that Pennsylvania law preempts the county from legislating in this area.

The Pennsylvania Clean Indoor Air Act is fully set forth in 35 P.S. § 1230.1. The law covers public and private employers and is intended to protect public health while accommodating individual freedoms. Under the laws of the Commonwealth, “no person shall smoke in an area designated nonsmoking by the proprietor or person in charge in a public place or at a public meeting.”
The Association believes the General Assembly recognized that individuals have dominion over their property — property owners get to choose if their establishment is or is not smoke free.

In its letter to council, the Association also clearly stated, “You should be aware that although we are voicing opposition to this ordinance, this Association does not advocate the use of tobacco in any form or of any kind. In fact, the Manufacturers’ Association advocates smoking cessation programs and a smoke-free environment. We recognize health risks associated with smoking and second-hand smoke.”

Dennis Weed

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