Another Ban Failed: KS Wichita

Kansas Wichita Update

Haze Surrounds Wichita Smoking Ban

May 6th, 2008

Remarks delivered to Wichita City Council, May 6, 2008.

Smoking ban supporters claim that they have the right to go to bowling alleys, bars, and other such places without having to breath secondhand smoke. That’s false. No one has the right to be on someone else’s property on their own terms. The property owner controls those terms. If the bar owner lets the band play too loud (or maybe not loud enough), or the restaurant is too dimly lit, or the floor of the steakhouse covered with discarded peanut shells, do we want to regulate these things too?

Some have compared a smoking section in a restaurant to a urinating section in a swimming pool. This comparison is ridiculous. You can’t tell upon entering a swimming pool if someone peed in it. You can tell, however, upon entering a bar or restaurant if there is smoking going on.

Some make the argument that since we regulate businesses for health reasons already, why not regulate smoking? Without agreeing with the need for these regulations, the answer is this: First, these government regulations don’t necessarily accomplish their goal. People still become ill from food, for example. But there is some merit here. Just by entering a restaurant and inspecting the dining room and the menu, you can’t tell if the food is being stored at the proper temperature in the restaurant’s refrigerators. But you can easily tell if there’s smoking going on.

A system of absolute respect for private property rights is the best way to handle smoking. The owners of bars and restaurants have, and should continue to have, the absolute right to permit or deny smoking on their property. Markets -– that is, people freely making decisions for themselves -– will let property owners know whether they want smoking or clean air.

The problem with a smoking ban written into law rather than reliance on markets is that everyone has to live by the same rules. Living by the same rules is good when the purpose is to keep people and their property safe from harm. That’s why we have laws against theft and murder. But it’s different when we pass laws intended to keep people safe from harms that they themselves can easily avoid, just by staying out of those places where people are smoking. For the people who value being in the smoky place more than they dislike the negative effects of the smoke, they can make that decision.

This is not a middle-ground position, as there really isn’t a middle ground here. Instead, this is a position that respects the individual. It lets each person have what they individually prefer, rather than having a majority — no matter how lop-sided — make the same decision for everyone. Especially when that decision, as someone said, will “tick off everybody.” Who benefits from a law that does that?

No Public Smoking Ban for Wichita
Dec 18, 2007
Wichita will not have an all-out smoking ban in public places after all. During a Tuesday workshop, council members opted against a total ban of smoking in public places due to a lack of support.
The council was clearly split between public health rights and the rights of businesses to set their own policies.
Council members Lavonta Williams and Jeff Longwell were the only counci members on the fence. They’ve been tasked with working on a compromise ordinance. Some proposals have included allowing bars to remain smoking environments, or simply requiring Wichita restaurants and businesses to either ban smoking or allow it, and clearly post which they choose.

Wichita City Council Hears Alternative to Smoking Ban
Dec 4, 2007
Smoking is a choice. Some Wichita restaurant owners say they want to keep it that way. As the Wichita City Council considers a ban on cigarettes indoors, restaurant owners have come together to offer an alternative to the city-wide smoking ban.
Larry Doss owns Walt’s Bar and Grill in east Wichita. He says he has a good relationship with his customers – most are familiar faces that keep coming back. Doss says they do that knowing full well how he operates.
“Enter at your own risk. It’s your right to choose to enter into a smoking environment,” said Doss. Doss has never had a non-smoking section at his restaurant in the 12 years he’s owned it.
Tuesday he proposed the city council allow other restaurants to do the same; declare themselves either entirely smoking or smoke-free, whichever is best for business.
Doss says, “Due to our customer base, our foot traffic that comes in, they’re the ones that make the decision.”
Carol West is a smoker. She often eats at Walt’s. She says, “If you don’t want to be in a bar that’s smoking then don’t go. It’s pretty simple.”
Doss says a city-wide smoking ban would hurt business; forcing his customers who do smoke to go to restaurants in nearby cities without a ban. West says, “In my case I just won’t go. I can smoke at home.”
Doss has special fans and a filtration system to help clear the air. A large number of his customers over the lunch hour were non-smokers and believe it’s a choice.
Wes Race is among that group. He says, “As a non-smoker if I got into a restaurant and it’s too smokey, well I’ll just choose to go to a non-smoking restaurant.”
Doss says Walt’s will likely be smoke free in a few years due to the high number of people quitting the habit, but says, “That’s my decision to make. Not some outside force to make it for me.” It’s a decision that outside force has yet to vote on.
We spoke with Vice Mayor Sharon Fearey about Doss’ proposal. She doesn’t agree with it and says smoking is a public health issue and needs to be banned in public places.
The council’s district advisory boards are reviewing the smoking ban issue right now. It should be on the council’s agenda later this month.

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