Anchorage snuffs out smoking in restaurants and other public places

Posted: Thursday, June 22, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Lighting up in most public places will soon be a no-no in Anchorage.

The Anchorage Assembly approved a measure Tuesday that will make smoking illegal starting at the end of the year. The ordinance outlaws smoking in restaurants, sports arenas, apartment lobbies and bowling allies, but allows people to light up in bars.

The Assembly's 9-2 decision came after a nine-month effort by anti-smoking activists, led by the Smokefree Anchorage Coalition. The group sent out e-mail, lobbied Assembly members and drew on medical experts to make its case.

Some Assembly members said they had never been contacted by more people on any issue. The ban's supporters railed about the health hazards of secondhand smoke, while opponents said it would hurt business and eliminate freedom of choice.

Assemblyman Allan Tesche, one of the ordinance's five sponsors, said the measure passed because of strong public support. About 77 percent of Anchorage voters said in a December Ivan Moore poll they would support a smoking ban if it didn't include bars.

The Anchorage Smokefree Coalition ''focused that on the Assembly's minds,'' Tesche said. ''They gave the public a voice on this.''

Assembly members George Wuerch and Cheryl Clementson voted against the ban. Clementson worried it would be difficult to enforce. Wuerch said the issue was too important for the Assembly to decide alone.

''I believe it should be a matter of public vote,'' Wuerch said. ''It shouldn't be done with a group of lobbyists who organize telephone polls.''

The wide margin of Assembly approval rules out the chance of an effective veto by Mayor Rick Mystrom or Mayor-elect Wuerch, who wouldn't say whether he would have vetoed the ban once he takes office June 30.

The ordinance outlaws smoking in such areas as restaurants, apartment lobbies, sports arenas and bowling alleys. A state law already bans smoking in hospitals, schools, day care centers and public meeting rooms.

It takes effect Dec. 31.

The ordinance doesn't include bars, about a quarter of hotel rooms and some other offices. Anti-smoking advocates say they asked for bars to be left out to give the ordinance a better chance of passing.

On Tuesday, the Assembly also exempted bingo halls from the ban as long as the halls have an enclosed area where nonsmokers can play.

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