Topeka State health officials are considering a push for a statewide ban on smoking in public places while they encourage cities to enact their own restrictions in the wake of a national report on secondhand smoke.
The report Tuesday from the U.S. surgeon general concluded that even a small exposure to secondhand smoke is harmful and that ventilation systems or separating smokers from nonsmokers does not provide enough protection.
Anti-smoking groups and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said the report should help move public opinion - and elected officials - toward banning smoking in public places.
Lawrence adopted such a ban in July 2004. It prohibits indoor smoking at most public places.
But KDHE Secretary Rod Bremby was careful during a news conference not to call for an outright statewide ban, noting the report was only hours old.
"We will continue to monitor that as a policy alternative," Bremby said. "It's definitely something under consideration."
A House committee had a hearing in 2005 on a bill to ban smoking in public places starting in 2007. It died in committee with legislators saying the issue should be settled by local governments.
Eleven cities, including Lawrence and Salina, ban smoking in at least some public places. Such bans often generate opposition from bar and restaurant owners, who fear their businesses will be hurt.
Dr. Doug Iliff, of Topeka, acknowledged that proponents of such bans face criticism that they're restricting smokers' rights. Because officials must consider concerns about personal liberties, enacting measures to protect public health can take time.
No smoking here
These cities in Kansas ban smoking in at least some public places, such as bars and restaurants: Abilene, Bel Aire, Concordia, Fairway, Hutchinson, Lawrence, Lyons, Prairie Village, Roeland Park, Salina and Walton. Source: Kansas Department of Health and Environment
"The end result is not in doubt," Iliff said. "As a society, we will do the right thing in the end. The question is, how quickly do we get to that end and how much damage will be done while we wait?"
Bremby said he was not sure how far the department could go in restricting smoking statewide. The department had considered banning smoking in hospitals, which it also regulates, but the effort stalled when legislators balked.
For now, health officials are encouraging action by local officials, hoping their enactment of smoking bans will build support for the idea.
"Just looking at the panorama of American medical history and world medical history, you see that good ideas eventually get implemented," Iliff said. "The inherent tension between the public good and the private right is one that is very important in America. You've got to arrive at a democratic solution, and that just takes time."
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)
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