By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Sources tell KYW Newsradio that City Council and the mayor want to change Philadelphia’s smoking law so that no additional exemptions to the ban could be granted in the future.

This comes after a City Council committee today okayed waivers to four establishments that want their patrons to be able to light up.

More than 70 bars already have exemptions to the smoking ban, most of them granted when the law was first enacted.

But when four more -– one private club, two gentlemen’s clubs, and a neighborhood pub –- asked for exemptions, the Nutter administration fought it tooth and nail.

Testifying today before the City Council committee on Public Health and Human Services was city health commissioner Dr. James Buehler (in top photo):

“By granting new waivers now, a time-limited, circumscribed compromise grows bill by bill into a larger and larger loophole.  I worry about how many more will be added in the future,” he said.

But the committee went ahead and approved the four waivers, with final votes by the full Council coming later this month.

The committee chair, councilwoman Marian Tasco, said these four exemptions don’t chip away at the smoking ban.

“We’re only trying to rectify those four issues.  (We) don’t chip away at the law, and hopefully Council will find a way to rectify the waiver process,” she said.

(Councilwoman Marian Tasco, who chaired the meeting of the Public Health and Human Services Committee.  Image from City of Phila. TV)

(Councilwoman Marian Tasco, who chaired the meeting of the Public Health and Human Services Committee. Image from City of Phila. TV)

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Council sources tell KYW Newsradio that Council members and the administration are considering amending the smoking ban so that no future waivers could be granted.  Tasco implied as much in her public comments:

“We’ll be looking at a way that we won’t be in this situation again, of providing any waivers at all.”

A bill to do so could be introduced as early as tomorrow.

Also voting for the waivers was councilman Bill Greenlee, an outspoken advocate for workers rights. He sees no contradiction between safeguarding the health of workers and his vote in favor of the waivers:

“Look, I wish nobody would smoke. I wish every establishment in the city of Philadelphia was non-smoking. But we were just trying to deal with these individual four,” he told KYW Newsradio.

Still, smoking ban advocates left the Council chamber disheartened.  Bonnie Grant, of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, had argued that big conventions are increasingly reluctant to come to cities with weak smoking bans.

“For some convention planners, it could make a difference, and we hope that it doesn’t go any further,” she told the lawmakers.

(Bonnie Grant, testifying.  Image from City of Phila. TV)

(Bonnie Grant, testifying. Image from City of Phila. TV)

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The private club seeking an exemption is a group of Prince Hall Shriners, affiliated with Pyramid Temple in North Philadelphia.  The two gentlemen’s clubs were Club Risqué, in the ower northeast, and Vanity Grand, in South Philadelphia.

The fourth exemption was sought by Grumpy’s, on Ninth Street, in South Philadelphia.