Second round of smoking ban debate likely Tuesday in the Senate

TOPEKA – There is a joke around the statehouse that nothing ever dies under the dome.

That seems to be true for efforts to pass a statewide smoking ban which could be debated for a second time in the Senate on Tuesday.

A few weeks ago the issue seemed finished after Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, who chairs the House Health and Human Services Committee, decided not to vote on the original bill after several days of hearings.

Following the typical progression of a bill, the matter was dead.

But there are ways around almost any obstacle – such as inserting the smoking ban into House Bill 2221. Originally, the measure dealt with child care.

Now the measure would bar smoking in most public places.

By putting the language in to a measure that has already passed the House, Senators are able to bypass the committees.

If it does go to the House floor, the measure is likely to be sent to a negotiating committee were six lawmakers – three from each chamber – will work out a compromise.

Most Wichita residents support a smoking ban, poll shows

TOPEKA – More than half of Wichitans support a statewide smoking ban according to a poll released Wednesday by the American Cancer Society.

The numbers come hours before a House health committee is scheduled to hear from opponents of Senate Bill 25, which would ban smoking in most indoor public areas.

On Tuesday, the House Health and Human Services Committee heard from the bill’s supporters including Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Rod Bremby.

“This is a true public health threat,” he told the committee, which is chaired by Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita.

Medicaid, the state’s health care coverage for low income people, annually spent $196 million on tobacco related illnesses.

Landwehr said Tuesday she had not yet decided if the committee would vote on the bill or not.

Smoking ban debate resumes in House health committee

The smoking debate is back, this time in a House health committee that will  hear from proponents of the statewide smoking ban today.

On Wednesday, the House Health and Human Services Committee will hear from opponents of Senate Bill 25, which would ban smoking in most indoor public places.

The committee meets at 1:30 p.m.

Instant replay: The smoking ban debate

Butts in an ashtrayFor anyone who hasn’t had enough of the smoking ban talk, the city announced today it will re-broadcast the Wichita City Council’s two-hour discussion that led to a 4-3 vote in favor of a smoking ban in all businesses that allow people younger than age 18 to enter. The debate, which features about 15 speakers who waited hours to voice their support or opposition to the ban, will air on cable channel 7 tonight at 8 p.m. Then the city will put it on at 9 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sunday.

You can also view it online. (It wouldn’t play in my Mozilla Firefox browser, but it worked on Internet Explorer.)

So what about that smoking ban?

CigaretteIt may be another two months before the City Council emerges with a compromised smoking ban proposal. That’s because City Council members Jeff Longwell and Lavonta Williams are still out and about, meeting with bar and restaurant owners and reviewing what other cities have done. Longwell said it may be 45 to 60 days before a draft ordinance is ready. Despite the council’s apparent gridlock on the issue, Longwell said council members want the same thing. “Everybody wants to eliminate secondhand smoke,” he said. The question, he said, is whether to do that with a mandate or by asking businesses for some voluntary reductions in secondhand smoke or some combination.

Meanwhile, advocates on all sides of the issue have flooded the 30-minute public agenda at council meetings, mostly with repetitious arguments. (People get up to five minutes to speak in front of the council — and whoever is watching on cable Channel 7.) State officials also are considering a statewide ban, although its prospects in the legislative session are uncertain.

The American Lung Association just put out its State of Tobacco Control report and gave Kansas an “F.”