The number of Kansas communities that have passed or are considering smoking bans fuels discussion of legislation that would impose such a ban statewide.
However, the many differences in the local laws being approved raise questions about whether this should be a statewide issue or kept at the local level.
A statewide ban would have the advantage of standardizing the laws across the state, but it’s also possible that any smoking ban that could muster broad legislative support would be so watered down that it wouldn’t address the concerns of many communities.
Previous legislative efforts to pass a statewide ban have resulted in laws that died under the weight of numerous exemptions that caused supporters to lose their enthusiasm for the bills.
The local laws passed in various communities illustrate some of the problems with making this a statewide issue.
A petition drive reportedly is forming to protest the smoking ban recently passed in Emporia. That law would ban smoking in all public places and businesses, including bars and restaurants, but offers a rather large loophole by exempting private offices where the public isn’t frequently invited.
Salina was one of the first Kansas communities to pass a smoking ban. Their ban applies to restaurants but allows smoking in outdoor eating areas and indoors between the less family-friendly hours of 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Now, however, Salina commissioners are considering a ban more like the one in Lawrence that prohibits smoking in almost all public buildings.
One bill introduced in the Legislature last year would have forced counties to vote on a smoking ban in much the same way they voted on liquor by the drink. That has the benefit of forcing the issue in communities that might not otherwise have discussed it, but it still imposes a one-size-fits-all solution for the state. It’s clear that almost any statewide ban would have to allow communities to supersede the state law with more stringent local regulations.
Smoking, of course, is a personal choice, but with all the evidence about the dangers of secondhand smoke, many people believe the time for a statewide ban has come. Those of us who live with and appreciate the Lawrence smoking ban agree.
This is a health issue. Legislators should stand up, as many local officials have, and pass a meaningful statewide smoking ban.