A bill introduced in the Kansas House this week is taking consideration of a statewide smoking ban in the wrong direction.
About the only positive thing to say about HB 2642 is that it is, indeed, a statewide ban. However, the ban it proposes is far weaker than the bans already imposed by many Kansas cities. The bill also expressly prohibits local governments from passing more stringent laws, meaning that Kansas cities, like Lawrence, that already have smoking bans of their own would have them wiped off the books.
The legislation, ironically introduced by the House Committee on Health and Human Services, states “Smoking is prohibited in all public places and places of employment within the state of Kansas, except the following:” then proceeds to list many broad categories of businesses that would be exempt. It would allow smoking in bars, clubs and restaurants that have ventilation systems and sections reserved for smoking and no-smoking. Those establishments would have to pay the city or county where they are located a fee of $1 per square foot for their smoking areas.
One oddity to the bill is how it deals with smoking in motor vehicles. Although privately owned motor vehicles are listed as an exemption, a later provision states: “It shall be unlawful for any person to smoke or be smoking in any motor vehicle which is occupied by more than one person.” So, at least in cars, the legislators apparently are concerned about the effects of secondhand smoke.
In his State of the State address, Gov. Mark Parkinson challenged legislators to pass a meaningful statewide smoking ban, one that was not “full of loopholes.” This bill clearly is not what the governor had in mind.
Not only is it filled with loopholes that cancel out most of its impact in public gathering places, but it would dump local laws that have broad support in many Kansas communities. It is a weaker ban than the one that went into effect Jan. 1 in North Carolina, the nation’s top tobacco-producing state.
The bottom line is that this legislation would make the smoking problem in Kansas worse, not better. It’s hard to imagine that the legislators making this proposal really thought it even would be seriously considered.
Lawmakers should set this proposal aside and try again for a real statewide smoking ban.