Business owners testify against indoor smoke ban

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JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - A bill that would ban smoking in indoor work places and public places in Alaska has drawn opposition from some business owners.

HB360, from Rep. Lindsey Holmes, R-Anchorage, would ban smoking in most commercial buildings, including businesses, restaurants and bars. She told the House Health and Social Services Committee on Tuesday that her goal with the bill is to protect workers from secondhand smoke.

“House Bill 360 is the Smoke-Free Workplace Bill, or what I call the ‘Take it Outside Bill,’” she said. “We’re not with this bill trying to tell people whether or not they can smoke, we’re trying to protect people who are in their own workplaces from having to breathe secondhand smoke.”

Some local governments already have bans of this kind, while other municipalities and unincorporated areas do not.

Holmes said the bill has the support of health-advocacy groups and hundreds of businesses.

But the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (http://bit.ly/1o1eHRW ) that most business owners who called in to testify on the bill were opposed to it. They said there are already choices between smoking and non-smoking establishments in many communities. Some also said government doesn’t have a place in regulating restaurants on this matter.

Larry Hackenmiller, a member of the Interior Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailer’s Association, called the bill an attack on freedom and personal choice.

“This bull about, well, the employees’ safety, it’s a matter of preference and an employee may not like the smell of smoke or whatever,” he said. “They keep on telling you that we have a right to smoke-free air, well, that’s true, but you also have the right to smoke-filled air. Those rights exist for everybody. The Constitution doesn’t restrict you from being stupid or smart when it comes to smoking.”

Several others testified in support of the measure, citing health concerns.

Committee members asked questions about enforcement. Holmes said she didn’t intend to create a burdensome bureaucracy and was willing to work on the bill.

The bill was held for further consideration.

A companion bill also is pending in the Senate.

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Online:

HB360: http://bit.ly/1rAnNnW

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