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Bill would make smoking OK in bars selling lottery tickets

Publication Date: 2011-03-08
  • Publication:Morning Call

A handful of state lawmakers say Kansas' ban on smoking is hypocritical and they're introducing a change they say will make it fairer to small businesses. Right now, state-owned casinos are exempt from the ban. The new bill would allow bars that sell lottery tickets to be exempt too.

At Caesar's Palace on W. Central in Wichita, business plummeted after the state banned smoking in almost every public spot across Kansas.

"It was pretty much just like turning a light switch off," said John Parsons, owner of Caesar's Palace.

One of every few public places that still allow smoking is the state-owned Boot Hill Casino in Dodge City. Lawmakers in Topeka were worried the casino wouldn't make as much money if smoking were banned. It's a move that angered bar owners like Parsons and most of his customers.

"They pretty much just couldn't understand why the state could exempt their casino but just a small private little business that you have to be 21 to enter anyway and they say we can't smoke," Parsons said.

A new bill considered in Topeka is being billed as taking the hypocrisy out of the state ban. It would add any bar that sells lottery tickets to the list of exemptions under the guise that if smoking is OK in a casino, it should be allowed in bars making cash for the state too.

"I believe it should be the business owner's choice," said Rep. Joe Seiwert (R), from Hutchinson. "If he goes broke because he allows smoking in his establishment, that's his fault. If he goes broke because we put restrictions on him, it's a little bit different, I believe."

Health officials are universally against the idea of adding more exemptions to the state ban saying it weakens the law and their efforts to curb smoking. It's currently being considered by the Health and Human Services Committee. It will have to get approval of the committee before it moves to the full House for a vote.