An anti-smoking group that's been working behind the scenes since fall is about to go public -- and ratcheting up the pressure on the city to ban smoking in all public places.
The group of about 70 people calls itself Clean Air Lawrence, and it has declared war on secondhand tobacco smoke.
"We're getting into a fairly active time," said Robert Campbell, chairman of the group. "One of the key things we're trying to do is get rid of smoke in the workplaces."
The coalition is beginning its public campaign as a task force, after nearly a year of discussion on the issue, readies a report to the Lawrence City Commission. It's a fight that pits bar and restaurant owners and patrons against health and clean-air advocates. And it's one that's being played out increasingly across the state and nation.
Last year, the city of Salina approved an ordinance banning smoking in restaurants between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. daily. The ban was endorsed in November when it was placed before Salina voters.
Last week, city commissioners in Hays reached a deal on an ordinance that would restrict smoking in restaurants, retail stores and bowling alleys.
Push for a ban
During the next few months, members of Clean Air Lawrence will join the fray here. They will first push for a ban, then monitor drafting of a city ordinance. They also will work to educate the public about the dangers of secondhand smoke.
A workplace smoking ban essentially would mean a ban in bars and restaurants -- they are workplaces, after all, Campbell said. And Clean Air Lawrence believes the ban shouldn't make exceptions for establishments that have designated smoking areas.
"From everything I've read, a door or a wall between the two areas doesn't make any difference" as far as secondhand smoke is concerned, Campbell said.
Clean Air Lawrence consists of people from all walks of life, including many in the medical profession, said Carrie Pohl, one of its members.
"We kind of came together as a lot of concerned citizens on the health of employees and patrons visiting public places where they were exposed to secondhand smoke," Pohl said.
The group first met in October. It is going public now because the time is nearing for commissioners to begin reviewing a possible smoking ban.
In April 2003, Mayor David Dunfield appointed a task force to study the issue. The task force consists of health professionals and people in business, including bar owners. It plans to meet with commissioners March 31 to discuss a wide range of options and their social, health and economic ramifications.
A few days earlier, at 7 p.m. March 25, Clean Air Lawrence will have its own public forum on secondhand smoke. The session will be in the auditorium at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and include discussions on possible ordinances.
|Clean Air Lawrence, a coalition of people opposed to smoking in public places, will conduct a public forum on the issue at 7 p.m. March 25, in the auditorium at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.The coalition will gather for its monthly meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday in meeting room E at the hospital. The meeting is open to the public.|
Ban not popular
Talk of banning smoking in bars doesn't sit well with many people who one afternoon last week were at Cross Town Tavern, 1910 Haskell Ave. Bartender Chris Kaplan used to live near Sacramento, Calif., where there is a statewide smoking ban in buildings open to the public. She remembers one bar that intentionally violated the law -- even though it was paying daily $100 fines to do so.
"Why put a law on the books that's going to be broken?" Kaplan asked. "We were using law enforcement resources to monitor smoking when people were being raped and murdered."
And a ban wouldn't keep Cross Town patron John Bingston, 53, Lawrence, from smoking, he said.
|Members of Lawrence Mayor David Dunfield's Task Force on Smoking:¢ David Kingsley, of GRI Research.¢ Peach Madl, owner of The Sandbar.¢ Chuck Magerl, owner of Free State Brewery.¢ Scott Hazelitt, GLPM Architects.¢ Dave Hiebert, Lawrence arts benefactor.¢ Judy Keller, executive director, American Lung Association of Kansas.¢ Ron Weiner, allergist.¢ John Hiebert, physician.|
"They can ban smoking all they want and I'll just keep right on smoking," he said.
"Next they'll be telling us what color of toilet paper to use," said Glenn Haderman, 55, Lawrence.
Eric Green doesn't smoke but doesn't think it's good to ban smoking, either. He protests any governmental intrusion into people's preferences.
"That's what's wrong with this damn town," he said.
Commissioners know they will be in a pressure cooker when decision time arrives, Dunfield said.
"Obviously there are a lot of emotions and a lot of opinions out there from different viewpoints," he said.