Mario Lopez remembers as a child that his dad would smoke a pack of cigarettes per day, often in their house.
He also remembers suffering from frequent sore throats, incessant migraines, coughing and red eyes.
Now that his dad has kicked his smoking habit after 43 years, Lopez has become one of the vocal smoking ban activists in the Valley.
"I was always sick,’’ said Lopez, 32, of Phoenix.
The Scottsdale Fashion Square mall security guard, who also serves as a member of the Phoenix for Smoke-Free Workplaces, said he realized the health impact of secondhand smoke when he moved out of his father’s home and his health improved. Then he remembers falling ill again and having to miss work after he began hanging out at smoky nightclubs in the city.
Lopez joined about 20 others Wednesday night at Via Linda Senior Center in Scottsdale to develop a strategy to ban cigarette smoking at indoor workplaces in Phoenix and Scottsdale, and eventually the state. They want Arizona to join California, New York, Delaware, Connecticut, and Maine by urging elected leaders to make the landmark decision of going smoke-free.
"Our number one goal for the long term is a smoke-free Arizona,’’ said Wilfred M. Potter, a retired urologist from Scottsdale who is leading the charge with a group called Scottsdale for Healthy Smoke-Free Workplaces. The short-term goal is Scottsdale and Phoenix.
They know it is going to be a battle.
State Rep. Linda Lopez, DTucson, said the best way for smoking ban supporters to win public debate about the issue is to be honest about the health risks of secondhand smoke. A handful of physicians in the room agreed.
Lopez plans to present the Legislature with a bill in January banning smoking in indoor workplaces. She is adamant about not having a watered-down version and wants bars included.
Alex J. Ramero, cochairman of Phoenix for Smoke-Free Workplaces, said he expects the group will need to gather about 15,000 voter signatures to force an initiative to ask voters if they would favor a ban.
"We feel good that we would get that law passed in the city of Phoenix,’’ he said.
Ramero added that if Phoenix could be on a level playing field with its neighbors through a regional or state ban, that could quell the critics’ concerns about businesses suffering.
"If all restaurants, bars and hotels were smoke-free, then there would be no problem,’’ he said.
Arizona has 15 municipalities that have adopted measures to restrict smoking in various places. Tempe is the latest in the East Valley. Voters in Prescott will have a say at the polls in November. The Coconino County Board of Supervisors is discussing a countywide ban.
For more information
Scottsdale for Healthy Smoke-Free Workplaces: Wilfred M. Potter (480) 563-9965
Phoenix for Smoke-Free Workplaces: Alex J. Romero (606) 722-4937,