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VOL. 123 | NO. 45 | Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Tenn. Senate Rejects Bill to Allow Minors to Work Where Smoking Allowed

By ERIK SCHELZIG | Associated Press Writer

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NASHVILLE (AP) - The state Senate on Monday rejected a proposal to allow people younger than 21 to work in restaurants that allow smoking.

The Senate voted 15-8 against the bill sponsored by Sen. Paul Stanley, a Memphis Republican. There were seven abstentions.

"I don't think it's a step forward for Tennessee, I think it's a step backward for young people," said Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden.

The indoor smoking ban that went into effect in October allows an exemption for restaurants and bars that limit access to customers over age 21. But it also restricts employees at restaurants that allow smoking to those 21 or older.

Herron argued that younger people are more susceptible to becoming addicted to tobacco products if they work in an environment where smoking is allowed.

Herron also said that strip club owners want to allow younger workers so they can hire exotic dancers who are under 21.

"I'm not interested in passing legislation that enables 18-year-olds and 19-year-olds to work as exotic dancers," he said.

Stanley called his bill a right-to-work measure.

"It gives those who are 18, 19 and 20 - who can legally buy a pack of cigarettes and smoke that pack of cigarettes today - the opportunity to work in a place that they think best suits their employment needs," he said.

Sen. Charlotte Burks, of Monterey, was one of two Democrats to vote for the proposal.

"I have a college in my town and I had three young people call me just in tears because they lost their jobs," she said. "And they were depending on that job to pay for their college."

"We did these folks a disservice," she said.

Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle noted that the new law has only been in effect for about six months, and argued that lawmakers should allow more time before trying to make changes.

"I have not heard the outcry from folks on this matter," said Kyle, of Memphis.

Read SB3290 on the General Assembly's Web site at: http://www.legislature.state.tn.us

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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