Waitresses, busboys, musicians and others who labor in smoky haunts came one step closer Friday to breathing the same clean air as Oregonians...

Share story

SALEM, Ore. — Waitresses, busboys, musicians and others who labor in smoky haunts came one step closer Friday to breathing the same clean air as Oregonians working in offices and stores.

The Oregon House approved a bill to ban smoking in bars, taverns and bingo halls beginning in 2009.

Those venues were exempted when Oregon banned workplace smoking in 1981. More than 35,000 Oregonians work in them, according to anti-smoking advocacy groups.

The new measure would leave only cigar bars and smoke shops exempt. Hotels would be allowed to keep up to 25 percent of their rooms for smokers. The smoking of noncommercial tobacco for Native American ceremonies would continue to be protected under federal law, and tribal casinos would not be covered.

Supporters said 800 Oregonians a year die as a result of secondhand smoke, and the bill would save lives and reduce health-care costs.

“Increasing medical evidence has conclusively demonstrated the link between exposure to secondhand smoke and the increased risk of lung cancer, heart disease, and asthma,” said Rep. Carolyn Tomei, Milwaukie Democrat. “The only way to fully protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke is to eliminate smoking in indoor spaces.”

Bar and restaurant workers who breathe secondhand smoke are 50 percent more likely to get lung cancer than workers in smoke-free environments, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

But opponents said outlawing smoking in bars and restaurants would reduce state revenue from tobacco and lottery sales.

The state revenue forecast for the next two-year budget would be reduced by nearly $50 million in tobacco tax proceeds. Some opponents predicted a significant reduction in state lottery revenues because the ban would deter gamblers who smoke.

Some, the opponents said, will take their gambling business to tribal casinos, a last refuge for smoker-gamblers.

“This bill is a great economic development bill for the tribes,” said Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany.

One Republican questioned the link between exposure to secondhand smoke and increased risk of death and serious illness, a well-established connection confirmed by the U.S. surgeon general last year.

“I don’t think it’s a necessarily foregone conclusion,” said Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, who cited a study — funded in part by tobacco companies — that found there was no significant extra health risks from secondhand smoke.

“We shouldn’t be banning peanuts just because people are allergic to them,” said Thatcher.

The bill passed 38-21 after the defeat of proposals to extend the date for bingo-hall compliance to 2010 and exempt Portland Meadows racetrack.

The bill returns to the Senate for action on amendments. It is expected to be sent to Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who is expected to sign it.