Archive for Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Smoking ban is model for state proposal

Lawmaker would build on city ordinance, add outdoor restriction

March 1, 2005


A powerful state legislator is using Lawrence as his model for a bill that would ban smoking in workplaces across Kansas.

Rep. John Edmonds, R-Great Bend, introduced the bill, HB 2495, last week after reading about the Lawrence law, which took effect in July and prohibits smoking in essentially all indoor workplaces -- including bars and restaurants. His bill would go a step further and ban smoking in outdoor dining areas as well.

"I'm kind of intrigued about it, to tell you the truth," Edmonds said. "I know people are concerned about their rights. ... I believe that you have a right to smoke, but you don't have a right to make me smoke."

Edmonds, chairman of the House Committee on Federal and State Affairs, said he likely would schedule a committee hearing for the bill within the next two weeks. Similar bills have been introduced in the Legislature before, Edmonds said, but never made it out of a committee.

"I think this one has a chance, unless the members of my committee just hate it," Edmonds said.

Phil Bradley, executive director of the Lawrence-based Kansas Licensed Beverage Assn., said the proposed bill had all the same flaws of the Lawrence law, plus a couple of new ones.

"It appears what they are trying to do is stop smoking, and if that is what they are trying to do, then they should make smoking illegal," Bradley said.

Local control?

Edmonds said he became interested in the ban, in part, because his wife is a pediatrician who often sees health problems associated with secondhand smoke.

"And we're in a state where 75 to 80 percent of people don't smoke, so I think it (a ban) is something reasonable to talk about," Edmonds said.

Opinions on the bill were mixed. Rep. Nile Dillmore, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said he liked the current system of allowing cities and counties to pass their own bans.

"As a general rule, I think the whole business of local control is an important theory that we operate from on the state level," Dillmore, of Wichita, said.

The proposed bill would allow any city or county to exempt itself from the state law, if a majority of voters agreed to dispose of the ban.

Lawrence City Commissioner Boog Highberger said the idea of a statewide ban intrigued him because it might help level the playing field for Lawrence businesses who have said the city ban has hurt their sales.

Other states

But Highberger said he wasn't thrilled with the idea of the ban prohibiting smoking in outdoor seating areas of bars and restaurants. City commissioners have said they may want to make it easier for bars and restaurants to add outdoor seating areas as a way to help businesses with sagging sales.

"I understand the concept, but I'm not sure I could support it," Highberger said. "I don't think the concentrations of toxic substances are as high when you're outside. I think it goes a little further than we're really ready to go yet."

Edmonds said he thought people still were exposed to significant amounts of smoke in the outdoor areas.

Officials with the American Lung Assn.'s Kansas chapter also are ambivalent about the bill.

Judy Keller, the organization's executive director and a Lawrence resident, said she did not like the fact that cities and counties could vote to exempt themselves from the ban. She also did not like that the ban would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2007. She said that might cause some cities considering bans to slow their efforts.

Seven states -- California, Delaware, New York, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island -- have implemented statewide workplace smoking bans. Four other states -- Florida, Vermont, Utah and Idaho -- require all restaurants to be smoke free.

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