TOPEKA – The House voted 68-54 to send a comprehensive statewide smoking ban to the governor’s desk Thursday.
The measure, Senate substitute House Bill 2221, would bar smoking indoors — including at restaurants, bars and other public spaces — beginning July 1. It would allow smoking in state-owned casinos, private clubs and tobacco shops. It overrides any weaker smoking bans, including Wichita’s partial ban.
The bill now goes to the governor’s desk. It was passed last year by the Senate.
Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, supports the bill. He released this statement after the vote: “I’m very happy with today’s passing of the Clean Indoor Air Act that will help reduce cancer and tobacco-related diseases in our state. This is a victory for workers, families, businesses and future generations. Today’s success took many years and many struggles, but thanks to a bipartisan coalition in the legislature, the tireless efforts of our state’s health advocates and the support of the Kansas people, this legislation will soon become law.”
Wichita Ciy Council member Jeff Longwell, who helped craft the city’s smoking ordinance that went into effect 17 months ago, said it was clear even then the state was moving in this direction. The Wichita ordinance required businesses that allow patrons under the age of 18 to ban smoking or build a separate room to contain it.
“I thought the Wichita smoking ordinance worked very well,” Longwell said.
“We saw more people go to smoke-free environments, but the ones that wanted to be smoker-friendly put in some rooms to allow that to happen.”
Those who built rooms for smokers knew the state could pass a comprehensive ban at some time, he said.
“It shouldn’t come as a total surprise that something like this might pre-empt all the dollars they spent,” Longwell said. “But I feel for them. You have to appreciate business owners who reach out and do the best they can for clients on all sides of this issue.”
Before the vote in Topeka, more than two dozen supporters of the proposal filled the House gallery wearing black tee-shirts urging the measure’s passage.
“This will be your vote today to cast a vote for clean air,” said Rep. Charles Roth, R-Salina, urging support of the bill before the vote.
Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, who opposes a statewide smoking ban, called the bill a ““hypocrisy” for allowing smoking in casinos and not private businesses.
“If this is about health, let’s get serious,” she said.
Other lawmakers said the chamber should send the bill back to conference committee to take out the exemption for casinos and some private clubs such Veteran’s of Foreign Wars halls.
“I don’t know why we should ask our private businesses to ban smoking, then how can we allow it in state owned business,” said Rep. Dave Crum, R-Augusta.
While he supported a smoking ban, Crum said he wanted to see the bill amended to include casinos as part of the ban.