Topeka Supporters of banning smoking in restaurants, bars, casinos and most other public places got a quick lesson Tuesday in practical politics when they urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to rewrite the bill.
They didn't like a provision of an anti-smoking bill mandating a Nov. 4 vote in each county on whether residents want to be part of the statewide ban. In counties that opt out, municipal governments still could enact their own smoking bans.
"We can expect millions of dollars in expenditures by the tobacco industry to defeat the initiative county by county," said Terri Roberts, Kansas State Nurses Association executive director.
Mary Jane Hellebust, director of the Tobacco Free Kansas Coalition, said in written testimony that the move was unusual.
"Statutes usually passed by the Kansas Legislature do not ask local constituents to ratify matters affecting the public health," she said.
Leon Vinci, Johnson County public health director, suggested alternatives, such as having the ban become effective statewide when 50 percent of the state's population votes to approve it.
But Sen. David Wysong, the lead sponsor, said the provision was included out of political necessity.
"We wouldn't get it out of committee without the county vote," the Mission Hills Republican said.
He sponsored a smoking ban bill last year that was amended to give counties the option to vote, and many supporters wanting a stronger bill balked. Senate leaders shelved the bill because its passage was doubtful.
Thirty-one states have some type of statewide smoking ban.
Committee Chairman John Vratil said the panel will hear from opponents today and will debate the bill and vote on it next week. The Leawood Republican said he believes there are enough votes to send the measure to the Senate.
Dr. Roy Jensen, Kansas University Cancer Center director, said about 1,500 Kansans die each year from lung cancer and 89 percent of lung cancer cases are among smokers. He said the annual health care cost in Kansas caused by smoking is $927 million.