Statewide smoking ban
- CityCouncil approves ban on smoking, excludes bars (01-26-08)
- Senatorsjoin calls for smoking ban (01-09-08)
- Lawmakersface hotbed of political drama in '08 (01-04-08)
- Smokingbans gain momentum in KC area (01-01-08)
- Sebeliuspleased with health package (12-01-07)
- Wichitaconsiders indoor smoking ban (11-13-07)
Topeka One way or another, health advocates and a group of legislators are trying to get Kansans to quit smoking.
On Tuesday, several senators introduced legislation that would allow voters to decide in November whether to ban smoking in public places in their counties.
"I believe this bill will save tens of thousands of Kansas lives," said state Sen. David Wysong, R-Mission Hills, one of the sponsors of the measure.
In addition to a smoking ban, health care advocates also are pushing for a 50-cent increase in the state tax on each pack of cigarettes that would continue to increase with the rate of inflation.
Dr. Roy Jensen, director of Kansas University Cancer Care Center, made an impassioned plea for both the ban and cigarette tax increase.
"I cannot think of two proposals that are more critical to reducing the death and terrible affliction of tobacco-induced cancer in this state," Jensen said.
But both measures face uphill fights in the Kansas Legislature. Many lawmakers oppose a tax increase, especially in an election year, and many oppose a smoking ban, saying it infringes on the rights of business owners.
Approximately 4,000 Kansans die each year from tobacco-related illnesses, and treatment of smoking-related illnesses costs about $1 billion in Kansas annually.
The proposed smoking ban was introduced in the Senate Judiciary Committee. A hearing is expected in the next week or so.
Under the measure, each county will have on the Nov. 8 general election ballot the question of whether to ban smoking in public places, such as restaurants and bars.
State Sen. Jim Barnett, R-Emporia, who is also a physician, said, "I've already had patients tell me they are planning to stop smoking because of this bill."
Wysong said allowing voters to decide the issue in each county was the most politically expedient way in the Legislature to get a ban in place. He said polls show that most Kansans approve of smoking bans, citing concerns about the health effects of second-hand smoke.
Last year, Wysong's proposal to simply enact a statewide smoking ban didn't get any traction in the Legislature.
Under the bill, if voters in Douglas County rejected a smoking ban, the smoking ban already in effect in Lawrence would remain in place, he said.
The city of Lawrence has banned smoking in nearly all indoor workplaces for more than three years. The city ordinance was challenged and ruled constitutional in June by the Kansas Supreme Court.
Wysong said the ban also would apply to proposed casinos, a move the gambling industry has opposed in the past. The proposal, however, would allow hotels and motels to reserve 20 percent of their rooms for smoking.