Archive for Saturday, February 23, 2008

Exemptions added to smoking ban bill

February 23, 2008


— When the Senate Judiciary Committee finished adding exemptions Friday to a proposed statewide smoking ban, including ones for bars and casinos, some senators saw it as a tarnished shell of a bill that is less likely to pass.

Public health advocates want to ban smoking in most public areas, including restaurants, bars and casinos, and work places. But in a bid to increase its chances for passage, senators drafted the bill so that it left the final decision to county voters on whether they wanted to be part of the ban.

When the committee finished its work, the ban applied mainly to restaurants, public buildings, work places and 80 percent of a hotel's rooms. It still mandated the Nov. 4 vote in each county. In counties that opt out, municipal governments still could enact their own smoking bans.

Supporters said a statewide ban is the only way to create a uniform clean indoor air policy throughout the state. Opponents maintain it would hurt businesses and is an example of the state intruding into local control.

The committee plans to decide Monday whether to send the bill to the Senate and the vote is expected to be close. Chairman John Vratil said the added exemptions won't help its chances.

"I think many people who support the changes won't support the bill and the people who support the bill won't support the amendments," the Leawood Republican said.

Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt said the bill's chances for success are tied to how actively those who want the stronger version campaign against it. If the bill fails, smoking bans will remain under the control of local governments.

"It just became the stepchild nobody can love," said the Independence Republican. "It's still a step forward to get clean air in restaurants, but I think that it won't be viewed as sufficient by the people who brought it to the table"

Thirty-one states have some type of statewide smoking ban.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says 22 states require all public places to be smoke-free. An additional six require workplaces and restaurants to be smoke free but exempt bars. Three exempt from their ban restaurants and bars whose customers must be at least age 18 or 21.

Also added to the exempt list were cigar bars, cigar charity fundraising events, designated smoking areas at adult care homes, tobacco shops, private clubs and bingo parlors where children aren't allowed.


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