Overland Park passes business smoking ban

? This Kansas City suburb became the largest city in Kansas to ban smoking at virtually all indoor businesses, even though it won’t take effect for more than a year.

The City Council on Monday approved the ban, which will apply to all businesses except stand-alone retail tobacco shops.

The measure, which covers more than 300 restaurants and bars, takes effect Jan. 2, 2008.

“To me, this is a health issue,” said City Councilman John Thompson. “There is no acceptable level of secondhand smoke that’s medically approved.”

Overland Park is the largest city in the metropolitan area to implement a smoking ban, and advocates hope the trend continues.

“I certainly think this is the first of many,” said Lisa Benlon, a former state representative who now is governmental relations director for the American Cancer Society. “I really believe it’s going to keep the ball rolling.”

The ordinance follows a deal between Clean Air Kansas City, a group formed to lobby for smoking bans in the region, and the Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Assn. It will allow smoking on outdoor patios and courtyards.

Dennis Carpenter, the outgoing president of the restaurant association, said business owners realize that smoking bans are becoming more popular.

“I think it was inevitable that a lot of them were going to pass it,” Carpenter said.

A recent poll showed that 80 percent of Johnson County residents wanted to sit in no-smoking sections at restaurants.

“I have many friends who own small businesses or are employed by small business who complain regularly about government interference all the time but tell me in this case we should have a smoking ban,” Councilman Jim Hix said.

Some bar customers aren’t sold on the idea, though.

“In a barlike setting, drinking and smoking go hand and hand,” Brooke Brown said Monday night as she smoked while having a drink at The Peanut in south Overland Park.

The American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, based in Berkeley, Calif., said Overland Park will join 249 other cities with similar bans. That list includes several other Kansas City suburbs on both sides of the state line and Lawrence.