Smokefree DC is a citizen-based group whose goal is to promote smokefree environments in Washington, DC.

D.C. Council to vote Tuesday on smokefree exemption

In an attempt to correct its previous error, the D.C. Council tomorrow is scheduled to vote on a measure that would permit cigar-smoking at one event: Fight Night, a children’s charity fundraiser.

Recall that last month, the Council inadvertently passed a measure that would permit 79 hotels in the District to hold smoking events every year. It did so without any public notice by passing an amendment to the budget. Great way to make policy. Note that Councilmember Phil Mendelson was the only one who didn’t go along with the notion of weakening the smokefree law and was the only “no” vote.

So tomorrow, they are due to scale back the exemption.

That’s not good enough.

What they should do is repeal the exemption they accidentally passed and leave the smokefree workplace law alone. It is tremendously popular, and we haven’t heard any outcry for it to be weakened — least not for a charity event. You really can’t raise money without allowing cigar-smoking? C’mon.

If the councilmembers really think an exemption is a good idea, then they should be aboveboard. Put a measure through the Health Committee and give the public – and workers who stand to be most harmed by it – a chance to weigh in.

That might be their plan; the measure they are voting on tomorrow is temporary, which means it lasts six months (Fight Night is in the fall).

Tell the Council what you think about it weakening the smokefree law.

In the meantime, here’s a copy of the letter we sent the Council today:

Councilmembers,

We understand you plan to vote tomorrow on legislation that would scale back the exemption the smokefree law to apply to just one event: Fight Night. We believe that fundraisers don’t need to permit cigar-smoking to be successful, and any weakening of the tremendously popular smokefree workplace law is bad policy. For those reasons, we call on you to do the following:

1) Fully repeal the amendment that you passed last month, which would allow 79 hotels to hold cigar-smoking events annually; and
2) Put any changes the Council wants to make to the smokefree law through the Health Committee so the public has a chance to comment.
Even if you think an exemption to the law is warranted, at the very least we hope you would agree that weakening a popular health and safety law without public input is not a good way to legislate.
Sincerely,
Smokefree DC

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