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House members burning to relax smoking ban

Publication Date: 2012-03-12
  • Author:Tim Carpenter

Rep. Randy Garber's personal insight into an effort Monday to shrink scope of the statewide indoor smoking ban was painfully obvious.

His first wife smoked from age 13 until she died of lung cancer at age 48.

The experience didn't shake the Sabetha Republican's belief the 2010 Legislature and Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson overreached by placing into Kansas law a prohibition on smoking in public buildings and in most private businesses.

"I am sure all of us agree smoking is not healthy," Garber said. "Does that give us the right to tell private businesses that they cannot allow smoking in their establishment?"

He is a co-sponsor with a dozen representatives of House Bill 2690. It would restore the right of business owners to decide whether to allow smoking in any commercial property that limited access to people 21 or older.

The proposal would extend smoking privileges beyond the current exemption list of tobacco shops, casino gaming floors, one-fifth of hotel rooms, long-term care facilities and certain clubs licensed before January 2009.

City and county rules on smoking more restrictive than state law wouldn’t be altered if the Legislature and Republican Gov. Sam Brownback agreed to the House bill.

The House Federal and State Affairs Committee took no action on the bill, which received blunt criticism.

"This is a profoundly bad piece of legislation," said John Neuberger, professor of at The University of Kansas medical school. "Passing this bill would indicate a lack of support for a very important public health measure for disease prevention and control."

Mary Jayne Hellebust, executive director of the Tobacco Free Kansas Coalition, said all effort to reform the state's indoor smoking law should be directed at eliminating existing exemptions...