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Smoking Ban Debate Continues

Ruby de Luna
01/12/2004

The debate over Pierce County’s newly imposed smoking ban continues. Later this week (FRI) a superior court judge will hear arguments from lawyers for the health board that approved the ban, and a coalition of restaurant and bar owners who oppose it. In the wings are counties that plan to follow suit if the ban is upheld. KUOW’s Ruby de Luna reports.

KING COUNTY COULD BE NEXT IN LINE WITH A SIMILAR BAN. COUNCIL MEMBER CAROLYN EDMONDS CHAIRS THE COUNTY’S BOARD OF HEALTH. SHE WANTS TO PROPOSE A MEASURE THAT WOULD PROHIBIT SMOKING IN BARS AND RESTAURANTS… The health effects of second hand smoke are widely documented and the more people we can keep from becoming ill due to second hand smoke, the more long term savings we will have for governments in terms of health care costs. ACCORDING TO THE AMERICAN LUNG ASSOCIATION, SECOND HAND SMOKE CAUSES 3-THOUSAND LUNG CANCER RELATED DEATHS AND 35-THOUSAND HEART DISEASE DEATHS IN NON-SMOKERS EACH YEAR. PIERCE COUNTY HEALTH OFFICIALS ESTIMATE THE BAN WOULD PROTECT 19-THOUSAND BAR AND RESTAURANT WORKERS FROM SECOND HAND SMOKE. IN THE PROCESS IT EXPECTS TO SAVE AN ESTIMATED 2 MILLION DOLLARS IN MEDICAL COSTS. BUT AT THE HEART OF THE LAWSUIT BEFORE THE PIERCE COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT WAS WHETHER THE HEALTH BOARD’S BAN COULD PRE-EMPT STATE LAW. The 1985 Clean Air Act specifically gave restaurants, bowling alleys, taverns, card rooms, specific authority to provide accommodation for smokers and outlined how they were to do that. GENE VOSBERG IS PRESIDENT OF THE WASHINGTON RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION. HE AND OTHER OPPONENTS OF THE BAN SAY THE BOARD HAS OVERSTEPPED ITS AUTHORITY… Just because Pierce County board of health doesn’t like that rule doesn’t mean they can change it to fit what they want to do. IF THE COURT UPHOLDS THE BAN, OTHER COUNTIES COULD FOLLOW PIERCE COUNTY’S LEAD. IT COULD CREATE A PATCHWORK OF DIFFERING SMOKING RESTRICTIONS THROUGHOUT THE STATE. BOTH CRITICS AND SUPPORTERS AGREE ONE WAY TO AVOID THAT IS FOR THE LEGISLATURE TO REVISIT THE ISSUE. I’M RUBY DE LUNA, KUOW NEWS.
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