Kansas set to ban smoking in restaurants

TOPEKA Kan. Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson has indicated he will sign into law, and make effective July 1, a ban on smoking in restaurants, bars and other enclosed public and work places.

The legislation, approved last week by the House of Representatives, in several ways frustrates the 1,000-member Kansas Restaurant & Hospitality Association in Wichita, although they have agreed to remain neutral. KRHA officials earlier had preferred a separate statewide smoking proposal, which would have permitted restaurateurs, bar owners, casinos and private club operators to designate their entire facility a smoking section as long as they paid an annual fee and blocked minors from their establishments.

That bill, however, has been replaced by the latest bill that is ready to be signed by the state’s governor. When Parkinson signs the smoking ban into law, Kansas will become the 31st state to ban smoking in restaurants, American Lung Association statistics indicate. Included in that total is Michigan, where such businesses will be covered by a statewide ban as of May 1

“I’m very happy with today’s passing of the Clean Indoor Air Act that will help reduce cancer and tobacco-related diseases in our state. This is a victory for workers, families, businesses and future generations,” Parkinson said in a statement released late last week. He added, “This legislation will soon become law.”

Don Sayler, Kansas Restaurant & Hospitality Association chief executive and president, said most of his membership is ready to move on.

“Our best guess is that 70 percent of the restaurants in the state are non-smoking, either because of city or county ordinances or because that’s what operators thought their customers wanted. Because of that, it [the smoking issue] moved down the priority scale for us.”

Sayler said the KRHA board “still strongly believes this is a rights issue” and that operators are the best judge of how to handle smoking in their establishments. But he noted that other priorities for lobbying and membership representation resources have come up, such as health-care reform, menu labeling and card check for union organizing.

Still, the latest bill passed last week does not answer certain concerns the association had supported, including a provision that any statewide ban preempt or nullify existing city and county measures. Also important to the association, they said, is that any such state law does not preclude outdoor smoking sections and that it does include the option to create enclosed smoking sections, as some KRHA members have significant investments in such facilities.

The legislation passed by the Kansas House last week does pre-empt some city and county smoking bans, but only the weaker ones, including a city of Wichita ordinance that allows restaurateurs and bar owners to permit smoking in enclosed and separately ventilated areas. The bill also could limit the use of some outdoor smoking areas, such as patios or decks, or at least portions of such smoking areas, as it prohibits lighting up within a ten-foot radius of any doorway, open window or air intake leading into a building or facility that is not exempt from the smoking ban.

And to the chagrin of many restaurant and bar owners, as well as some anti-smoking advocacy groups, the bill exempts from the smoking ban state-controlled casino gaming floors and some areas of private clubs.

Around the nation, in some of the 30 states that now ban smoking in restaurants, operators may permit smoking in walled off areas with separate ventilation systems, which would be prohibited in Kansas. According to the American Lung Association, all but five of the 30 states now banning smoking in restaurants, also prohibit it in freestanding bars.

The Missouri Legislature is now weighing House Bill 1766, a proposal to ban smoking in restaurants and bars that does not include any preemption or exclusionary language to override existing city or county bans or prohibit the future passage of such local measures.

Contact Alan Liddle at [email protected] [3].