The city's smoking ban debate isn't just for bars and restaurants anymore. The show is now on the road.
City commissioners Tuesday will consider changes to the city's smoking ban, including creating a provision that would make it legal to smoke in a company vehicle. That's illegal under the current ban.
And Dr. Steven Bruner, an anti-smoking activist, says it should stay that way. Bruner, who has been one of the more vocal supporters of the ban, said employees should have the right to be free from smoke in a car, too.
"Say you are in a company and you are in a car with three other employees who are smokers and you have to breathe that crap," Bruner said. "If they make this change, you'll have no legal leg to stand on."
Bruner said he understood that the vehicle portion of the current ordinance was difficult to enforce, but he said it left open the possibility employees could file a complaint with city officials and have the activity stopped.
"This whole ordinance is pretty much complaint-based anyway," Bruner said. "It is not that anybody expects a police officer to start pulling people over for smoking in a vehicle. But if there are other employees in there, they should be protected."
Phil Bradley, executive director of the Kansas Licensed Beverage Assn. and strong opponent of the public smoking ban, agreed. He said exempting company vehicles would just show that the city really isn't concerned about protecting employee health - the stated reason for the ban.
"I guess protecting the health of those employees isn't as important," Bradley said.
The city's staff attorneys, though, are recommending the change because they said the vehicle provision was difficult to enforce for several reasons. One is that the fire department is the primary enforcement agency for the ban, but it has no ability to pull vehicles over. Plus, Scott Miller, a staff attorney, said it often was difficult to determine whether a vehicle actually was being used for company business or personal business. Also, he said, there are concerns about company vehicles from outside Lawrence traveling through the city and unknowingly violating the ordinance.
Staff members also are suggesting changes to other parts of the ordinance. Specifically, the commission will consider changes that would clarify when a business owner is guilty of violating the ban. The new ordinance would make it clear that bar, restaurant or other business owners would not be guilty of violating the ordinance if a patron was smoking in their establishments without the owner or manager's knowledge. But the revised ordinance also would make clear that owners or managers could be found guilty if they simply ignored the smoking activity.
Those proposed changes are significantly different from changes suggested by city attorneys in June. Those changes would have made owners and managers prove that they did not know a person was smoking in their establishments. Miller said staff members made the latest changes after city commissioners directed staff to try to reach a compromise with bar and restaurant owners.
Bradley said the attempt still fell short. Bradley said he still would like for business owners to be provided with a checklist of specific actions they must take that would ensure they would not be subject to prosecution.
Commissioners will discuss the changes at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.
More about the smoking ban
- 6News video: Report spurs talk of state-wide smoking ban (06-27-06)
- On the street: Do you think Kansas should adopt a statewide smoking ban?
- Ban could snuff smoking statewide (06-28-06)
- Report: Dangers of secondhand smoke more pervasive than previously thought (06-28-06)
- 6News video: Judge rejects smoking ban suspension (06-06-06)
- Judge again upholds city's smoking ban (06-07-06)
- 6News video: Smoking ban remains contentious 18 months in (01-15-06)
- Effects of city's smoking ban still in dispute (01-15-06)
- 6News video: Judge rules in favor of city smoking ban (12-22-05)
- Judge upholds city smoking ban (12-23-05)
- 6News video: Suspension of smoking ban in hands of judge (12-17-05)
- Smoking ban now in judge's hands (12-17-05)
- Kansas Health Foundation Grant
- Douglas County receives grant to expand anti-smoking efforts (12-05-05)
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