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Archive for Thursday, January 20, 2005

State control of smoking bans sought in Nebraska

January 20, 2005

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— Concerned that Nebraska could end up with a hodgepodge of local smoking bans, a lawmaker wants to put the issue under state control.

Sen. Pat Bourne of Omaha introduced a bill Wednesday that would preclude cities from enacting smoking bans that are tougher than existing state law.

The bill comes less than a month after a citywide smoking ban went into effect in Lincoln and as the Omaha City Council prepares to consider its own ordinance.

The Nebraska Clean Indoor Air Act allows businesses to choose whether to allow smoking, ban it or allow it in designated areas.

Bourne's measure would be retroactive, meaning it would invalidate Lincoln's ban, which was approved by voters in November.

"I think we need some uniformity and consistency," Bourne said. "It's a contentious issue and I think it should be a state issue."

Lincoln City Councilman Terry Werner said Bourne was ignoring the health of workers in places where smoking is allowed.

"If he wants it to be fair, why doesn't he propose a ban for the entire state?" Werner said.

Police began enforcing Lincoln's smoking ban on New Year's Day. It covers all public places, including bars and restaurants.

Omaha City Councilman Marc Kraft has proposed an ordinance that would ban smoking in all businesses except bars that do not have kitchens. The council is to discuss and possibly vote on the measure Tuesday.

In July of last year, the city of Lawrence enacted a ban on smoking in virtually all indoor public places.

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