Court upholds Lawrence smoking ban

Law 'not unconstitutionally vague'

The Kansas Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of Lawrence’s smoking ban.

In an opinion released this morning, the court sided with the city on all matters that had been challenged by Lawrence bar owner Dennis Steffes.

Lawrence’s ban on smoking has been in effect since July 2004. It had been challenged by Dennis Steffes, owner of Last Call and Coyote nightclubs, who said the ordinance is unconstitutionally vague and illegally supercedes state law.

But city officials said they have the authority to establish a smoking prohibition inside businesses based on local government’s home-rule authority to protect the health and safety of citizens. The Kansas Supreme Court agreed.

In the case, Steffes challenged a lower court’s ruling that upheld the ban as sufficiently specific, and additionally ruled that he had not submitted enough evidence to establish a loss in profits caused by the smoking ban.

Instead of conflicting with state laws establishing smoking policies, the court ruled, “we conclude that under this statute, the legislature has invited cities to regulate smoking in public places to the maximum extent possible.”

The city’s smoking ban ordinance, the court added, “provides sufficient warning to a person of common intelligence that one who owns, manages, or operates a public place may violate the ordinance if he or she knowingly allows, i.e., tacitly, passively or, even explicitly accepts, smoking on the premises.”

More details as they develop.