Statewide smoking ban in works - East Valley Tribune: News

Statewide smoking ban in works

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Posted: Wednesday, December 17, 2003 4:26 am | Updated: 1:10 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

A draft of an Arizona smoking ban proposal unveiled Tuesday would prohibit people from lighting up in all enclosed workplaces, including bars and eateries statewide.

The plan, set to be presented to the state Legislature in January by Rep. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, also received endorsements Tuesday from representatives of the Arizona heart, lung and cancer associations.

"This bill in this form has their support, period," said Kevin DeMenna, attorney for the health group trio, at an informal meeting at the state Capitol in Phoenix. However, the groups have not determined yet the level of participation they would have in a statewide effort.

Lopez met with 14 supporters Tuesday to discuss her proposal and devise strategies for getting what could be a monumental bill if passed by a conservative Legislature. So far, Lopez has gained bipartisan support from Rep. Colette Rosati, R-Scottsdale, who describes herself as being on the "conservative right."

"This is a steamroller that is coming across the nation,’’ said Rosati of District 8, which includes parts of Scottsdale east to Fountain Hills.

Arizona could be the next state to follow California, New York, Connecticut, Maine and Delaware, which have passed indoor smoking bans.

State taxpayers could save money if a law is enacted because it would reduce health care costs and employee claims related to smokingrelated illnesses, said Rosati, a registered nurse.

Supporters said they plan to lobby for the proposal as a "public health issue" and remind residents that smoking infringes on the rights of people who are exposed to unwanted secondhand smoke.

Similar measures have failed in the Legislature, but Lopez is sure her bill will pass. "This is a different time. This is a different age," she said.

Her proposal allows exceptions, such as outdoor areas removed from public entrances and exits, private homes, hotels/motels with separately partitioned rooms and ventilation systems, stores that sell tobacco products and paraphernalia exclusively that also have separate ventilation systems, and religious ceremonies practiced in American Indian communities.

The law would set the minimum standard for Arizona municipalities. Communities could choose more stringent measures.

Wilfred Potter, a retired urologist and leader of the group Scottsdale for Healthy Smoke-free Workplaces, said pushing for an initiative in Scottsdale alone would result in resistance. "Going through it statewide makes sense," Potter said.

Meanwhile, Alex J. Romero, co-chairman of Phoenix for Healthy Smoke-free Workplaces, said his group plans to launch an initiative in Phoenix in the next month because the Lopez plan could become bogged down in the Legislature. They are targeting the November 2004 ballot.

"Ideally, it would be great to launch it in Scottsdale" at the same time, Romero said. "I believe Phoenix and Scottsdale are the biggest targets. It’s sort of like we’re the linchpin."

Potter, however, wants to hold back on a dual initiative with Phoenix and back Lopez. But he’s not ruling one out.

"If things don’t happen with Linda Lopez, then certainly a citywide initiative would be indicated," Potter said.

The bill also would require business owners to post "no smoking" symbols or signs and prohibit the firing or disciplining employees for complaining about smoking or nonsmoking at work. Violators would be fined $100 for the first offense, $500 for the second and $2,000 for each subsequent offense, all misdemeanors.

Elevators, museums, theaters, waiting rooms, bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, pool halls and any building enclosed by a roof and wall with entrances and exits would be covered by the ban.

Lopez is scheduled to speak to the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce this week. And Potter and Leland Fairbanks, who was behind Tempe’s ban, are organizing a meeting of community leaders in January to discuss the issue.

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