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Last updated 3:31AM ET
February 25, 2021
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Business Review Western MI
Business Review Western MI
Workplace Smoking Bans
(wgvu) - A proposed ban on indoor workplace smoking could be made more palatable to business by keying it to a break on health insurance premiums, its sponsor says.

I will introduce another bill, that if a business is buying health insurance, I think they ought to get credit if they have a smoke-free environment, said state Sen. Thomas George, Republican of Texas Township, in Kalamazoo County.

That might give his measure some legs this time around, given that health care costs are at the top of many business owners' concerns. (See last week's Business Review for the story on the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce survey report.)

George, an anesthesiologist, couldn't even obtain a hearing for his bill when it was introduced last year. He reintroduced it again this year, and it was sent to the Senate Economic Development and Regulatory Reform Committee for consideration. A companion bill in the House was introduced by Rep. Brenda Clack, Democrat of Flint.

A companion bill, reintroduced by Sen. Ray Basham, Democrat of Taylor, would ban smoking from restaurants and bars, but again is opposed by those business groups.

Most members of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce already have smoking policies, noted Richard Studley, the 7,000-member organization's executive vice president.

Employers are dealing with this issue differently, and it should be decided in the workplace by employees and their employers, he said.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm gave the package a plug in her State of the State message, and the Campaign for Smokefree Air also backs it. That group includes the American Cancer Society, the Michigan Hospital Association and the Michigan State Medical Society.

George hopes new studies that link secondhand smoke to health problems also will prompt a more sympathetic hearing in the Legislature. Michigan loses $3.4 billion a year from smoking-related productivity losses, the Campaign for Smokefree Air said, and costs $1.04 billion in Medicaid costs.

But George isn't so sure the Legislature's more Democratic composition this time around will be a plus for its prospects.

Pressure to resist such mandates comes not just from business groups, he said, but from unions. George isn't sure a statewide ban on indoor workplace smoking would trump any such rights spelled out in a collective bargaining contract, he said.
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