Antismoking advocates have begun to lay the groundwork for a possible 2006 voter initiative for a statewide ban on lighting up in public.
A coalition of grass-roots groups and health education champions want to adopt a California-style ban that would apply to virtually all indoor businesses including restaurants and bars. Unwilling to compromise to get a statewide ban through the Legislature, the groups believe they will have better success by going directly to voters.
They are starting with an invitation-only fund-raiser today in Phoenix that’s intended to gauge how much support exists for an initiative campaign.
Seed money totaling $300,000 already has been committed by the Arizona chapters of the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association and
the American Cancer Society.
"That’s a serious start, but it’s far from what we need," said Bill Pfeifer, president and CEO of the lung association chapter. "We know that we are going to be opposed. It is for that reason that we are going to be focused on running a well-organized, wellfunded political campaign."
Tobacco use has been steadily dropping in the United States as health care experts make stronger arguments about the dangers of cigarettes and second-hand smoke.
Public pressure has been growing to restrict where smokers can light up, with comprehensive bans in indoor businesses adopted from California to New York to Ireland.
Arizona has left such regulation up to cities and counties. Legislative efforts to adopt a statewide ban have been thwarted by key Republicans who say they are protecting business property rights and personal choice.
That attitude doesn’t appear likely to change with this year’s elections, as Republicans are expected to retain control of the Legislature.
A large number of GOP candidates from the East Valley have said they oppose a statewide ban, regardless of their personal opinions about smoking.