Archive for Sunday, September 19, 2004

K.C. metro area considers public smoking ban proposal

September 19, 2004


— Every workplace and indoor public place in the metropolitan area could be smoke-free by Memorial Day 2005 -- with no exceptions and no ventilated loopholes.

A metrowide policy proposal pushed by Kansas City Councilman Chuck Eddy and smoke-free allies would outlaw tobacco use in bars, restaurants, casinos, bowling alleys and a long list of other places where nonsmokers could be exposed to second-hand smoke.

"The bottom line is, you've got to deal with it," said Eddy. "It is a health issue."

It is also an economic issue, and the debate in city halls across the area this fall could get very loud before the matter is settled.

While under no obligation to pass it, each city has been asked to consider a model ordinance proposed by the Mid-America Regional Council.

Proponents contend that steps to restrict public smoking would eventually show up in reduced health-care expenditures and lower insurance rates. Opponents counter that it could impinge on the personal rights of smokers and stamp out many businesses that allow smokers to puff in public.

"It's a hard sell," said Donovan Mouton, director of urban affairs for Kansas City Mayor Kay Barnes.

"I think the major stumbling block will be economics," Mouton said. "But there are some First Amendment issues and cultural censorship issues that also need to be addressed."

Mouton said the potential effect on tourism must be considered.

"How do you create a balance, and not cause some type of interruption in the development downtown where we have put a great deal of our focus? The debate is on."

The smoking debate is a worldwide topic, with various bans, restricted areas or ventilation rules in place in scores of countries, nearly a dozen U.S. states and more than 1,700 communities, including many in the Kansas City area that are far less sweeping than the proposed metrowide ban.

One of the strictest is in Lawrence, Kan., where restaurants, bars and workplaces went smoke-free July 1.

The proposal's 100 percent smoke-free mandate in workplaces, restaurants and freestanding bars would make it among the most restrictive of the 1,700 local laws now on the books across the nation, according to a study by Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights.

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