Lawrence was the first city in Kansas to approve a ban on smoking in most public buildings, but a petition drive currently underway to extend the smoking ban to the outdoor areas throughout downtown probably may be a step too far.
After an unpleasant stroll in downtown Lawrence, Mike DuPont has begun a petition drive to convince city commissioners to ban smoking throughout downtown. DuPont said smoke was so prevalent during his recent walk on Massachusetts Street that he returned home smelling like smoke, which raised his concerns about exposing not only himself but his infant child to second-hand smoke.
Lawrence banned smoking in most public buildings in 2004. That ban was extended by state law in 2010 to include areas within a 10-foot radius of the entrance to a business, which includes many sidewalk dining areas in Lawrence. Although the ban on indoor smoking has been largely accepted in Lawrence, there has been little enforcement of the outdoor smoking law. The local fire marshal said he couldn’t recall the last time a citation had been issued under the state law, and that only a handful of such citations are handed out each year.
Increasing enforcement of the 10-foot radius law is the obvious first step to address the downtown smoking issue. Enforcing that law seems far more practical and feasible than trying to define and enforce a ban on all downtown smoking. Would an overall ban include people who are smoking in their cars? Or someone who lives downtown and steps out on a balcony or fire escape to have a cigarette?
It would be interesting to know what downtown business people think of this idea. Many businesses, especially bar owners, were fearful that the city’s initial indoor smoking ban would seriously impact their businesses, but a study done two years after the statewide ban went into effect found that sales at establishments that served alcohol actually increased during that time. Maybe businesses would welcome more stringent enforcement of the 10-foot rule or even a broader ban.
At this point, a ban on outdoor smoking downtown probably shouldn’t be a top city priority. An overall ban seems too difficult to enforce, but if city officials see downtown smoking as a problem, increased enforcement of the existing state law would be a good first step.