A Wichita judge was right on target with both his ruling and his comments concerning an effort to exempt that city from the statewide smoking ban that went into effect July 1.
On Tuesday, Sedgwick County District Judge Jeff Goering lifted a restraining order that had prevented the state law from being enforced in Wichita. Plaintiffs in the case contended that Wichita’s smoking regulations — which allowed smoking in businesses that prohibit minors or establish ventilated smoking rooms — actually were more restrictive that the state law that bans smoking in most public places.
In his ruling, however, Goering declared, “There is no question (the state’s law) is the more stringent.” Although the Wichita case still could proceed to trial, there seems to be little point in pursuing the issue given the judge’s ruling. The ruling also makes it less likely that opponents in other Kansas cities will challenge the statewide ban.
Although Goering defended the statewide smoking ban, he didn’t miss the opportunity to chide state legislators for exempting state-owned casinos from the ban. The plaintiffs, he wrote, “are justifiably upset that they are being forced to make an economic sacrifice in the name of health that the State of Kansas is unwilling to impose on casinos.”
There is, of course, some question about how great that “economic sacrifice” may be. Establishments in Lawrence continue to be busy despite — or perhaps, partially because of — a smoking ban that is more stringent than the state law and took effect several years earlier. Nonetheless, whatever that economic impact is, Wichita business owners who are protesting the law have a right to expect state-owned casinos to bear the same burden they do.
The agreement to exempt casinos from the smoking ban may have been necessary to gain legislative approval for the bill this year, but it’s clearly an issue legislators should revisit. The smoking ban benefits the health and comfort of Kansans, and extending it to state-owned casinos is only fair.