Although the Kansas Senate passed two versions of a statewide smoking ban last year, some critics have come up with a legitimate complaint about the Senate plans.
During his State of the State address on Monday, Gov. Mark Parkinson urged passage of a statewide ban on smoking in public places. He emphasized that he wanted a “real” ban, not a ban “watered down” with so many exemptions that it had little impact on the state.
Later in the week, Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt noted the fact that the Senate had passed two smoking-ban bills and continued to be in favor of such a measure. However, the Senate’s supposed resolve was deflated somewhat by critics who pointed out that both Senate-passed bills exempted state-owned casinos.
It’s a valid point. If the state is willing to make bar and restaurant owners across Kansas absorb whatever economic impact results from a smoking ban, why shouldn’t the state be willing to accept those consequences in its own casino facilities?
Exempting state-owned casinos seems to confirm that legislators think a smoking ban will be a significant economic hit for businesses, a hit that apparently outweighs the health benefits from such a measure.
During his Monday speech, Parkinson challenged legislators by pointing out that 24 other states had public smoking bans and that even North Carolina, the nation’s top tobacco-producing state, had succeeded in passing a public smoking ban.
He’s right that, if North Carolina can approve a “real” public smoking ban, Kansas ought to be able to do the same. However, to pass such a measure, legislators need show they believe in such a plan enough to give up their double standard and make state-owned casinos subject to the same restrictions they want to put on bars and restaurants across the state.