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Opinions mixed on possible smoking ban

House committee is considering bill

Staff writer

Businesses in Kansas may become smoke-free, whether they want to or not. The Committee on Health and Human Services in the Kansas House of Representatives is considering a bill that would ban smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces, with some exceptions.

Some businesses welcome the bill.

Pizza Hut of Marion became entirely nonsmoking in November, manager Jeff Tomlinson said.

Tomlinson is himself a smoker, but he would rather have a smoke-free environment for his family at a restaurant.

“I’m not going to die in that few minutes without smoking,” he said.

Prohibiting smoking is good for business, he said. Smoking can chase away nonsmokers from businesses, especially families with children, Tomlinson said.

Peabody Lanes owner Christie McBride isn’t so sure a smoking ban would be good for business. She estimates the bowling alley would lose up to 10 percent of its customers if smoking was prohibited.

“I’d say half of my bowlers on Wednesday smoke,” she said.

On the other hand, some customers have commented that they would come more often if Peabody Lanes was smoke free. The bowling alley is nonsmoking during the lunch shift for that reason, McBride said.

“I’d be on the fence about a smoking ban,” McBride said. “As business owners, we have to stay neutral.”

Bill Sherbert, owner of SherBowl Lanes in Marion, eschews neutrality. Smoking bans are discriminatory, he said.

He expects a smoking ban would hurt his business.

“If you cut out the smokers, you cut out half your bowlers,” Sherbert said.

The number of smokers is going down, he said. Sherbert thinks that trend will continue, but decisions about smoking should be up to individuals to make, he said.

House Bill No. 2642 would prohibit smoking in enclosed public places, as well as most places of employment. The bill makes exceptions for tobacco manufacturers’, wholesalers’, and retailers’ premises, as well as designated smoking rooms in hotels and motels.

Restaurants, bars, and casinos would be able to designate smoking sections, but those would have to be separate from other areas except for a door or passageway. A separate ventilation system would be required for smoking sections.

A business would have to pay a fee of $1 per square foot annually of smoking section to the city or county it is in, depending on whether it is located in a city. Anyone less than 18 years old would be prohibited from such smoking sections.

“I think the House bill has way too many holes and exceptions in it to be effective or meaningful,” Rep. J. Robert Brookens said, “but I would rather let it play out in the committee process than advocate for a specific set of criteria or for specific changes.”

Regardless, Brookens said he would vote for the bill if given the chance on the notion that some action is better than no action.

Smoking in violation of the act would be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of as much as $300.

If passed, HB 2642 would override all city and county smoking bans.

Last modified Feb. 18, 2010

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