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Archive for Monday, November 15, 2004

K.C. to vote on smoke-free law

Measure is part of initiative across metro

November 15, 2004

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— Anti-smoking advocates are pushing an ambitious proposal that would ban smoking in public places on both sides of the state line in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

The Kansas City Council is expected to vote Nov. 23 on a smoke-free law that would ban smoking in most workplaces and a host of public places, including bowling alleys, pool halls and stores.

But the more expansive proposal would eliminate smoking in Kansas City bars and restaurants and is pinned on the passage of smoking bans in Jackson, Platte, Clay and Cass counties in Missouri and Johnson and Wyandotte counties in Kansas.

City Councilman Charles Eddy, who is leading the council's anti-smoking campaign, said Kansas City wouldn't approve the restaurant and bar ban unless an undetermined majority of the metropolitan population has smoking ordinances in place. Eddy said that would protect businesses from having customers flee for establishments in neighboring communities without bans in place.

"I really believe the region will buy into this," Eddy said.

If it does, it would be historic.

Cities in places including Wisconsin and Arizona have tried unsuccessfully to persuade neighboring municipalities to enact smoking bans, said Bronson Frick, associate director of Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, a national advocacy group.

"A trigger plan has never worked before in the country," he said. "It slows down the cities that are ready and puts the burden on cities that are not ready for change."

Kansas City's neighbors have not appeared eager to endorse the plan.

In Independence, a debate on a smoking ban is at least six months off.

And in the largest suburb on the Kansas side, Overland Park's City Council has likely delayed the issue until January and Mayor Ed Eilert said the proposal has little support.

Comprehensive, citywide smoking bans aren't even expected to be addressed in Lee's Summit, Kansas City, Kan., and Olathe, Kan.

"It's just not on our radar screen," said Mayor Mike Copeland of Olathe.

Eddy said inaction among politicians could mean the issue goes directly to voters.

Still, even in a scaled-down form, such bans often face hesitance from some lawmakers, outrage among smokers and fierce opposition from business owners.

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