Pennsylvania’s no-smoking regulation has too many gaps that should be eliminated for to protect more workers from the passive smoking, leaders of anti-tobacco groups told state lawmakers at a hearing in Pittsburgh Thursday. Members of the House Democratic Policy Committee were urged to remove the exemptions in the almost 4-year-old law that permit clients and employees in many workplaces, including casinos, bars and even private clubs, for to continue to smoke their cigarettes.

“While Pennsylvania has a clean indoor air legislation, it is not complete and fails to fully protect all its inhabitants equally under the law,” Cindy Thomas, executive director of Tobacco Free Allegheny, declared.

Under the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act, which took effect in September 2008 after more than a decade of legislative wrangling, bars can apply for an exemption if they don’t permit anyone under 18 inside and if food accounts for 20 per cent or less of total tobacco sales. At the state’s 11 casinos, half the gaming floor is exempt. There is no doubt that the “witches brew” of chemicals in cigarettes smoke causes cancer, heart disease and other ailments, explained Diane Phillips, government relations official with the American Cancer Society.

“Because there is no secure level of exposure to secondhand smoke, it’s time to leave these exemptions and protect inhabitants rather than protecting cigarettes consumption,” she argued.

The hearing at the University of Pittsburgh’s O’Hara Student Center in Oakland was requested by Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill, prompted in part, he reported, by a story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in April that appeared questions about how well the smoking ban was being implemented. Mr. Frankel told that he hoped the hearing was the first of many intended to spur changes in the legislation.