Another Ban Failed: NE Ralston and Papillion

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Nebraska Ralston and Papillion Update?

Ralston Closer to Smoking Ban, Papillion Stays Out Of Fight
Nov 6, 2007
Ralston/Papillion (KPTM) – The Ralston City Council voted five-to-one to move one step closer to a smoking ban.
But despite Ralston’s vote, not all of Omaha’s neighbors are ready to put out smoking.
Papillion leaders say there aren’t any plans to push any kind of a smoking ban at this time.
Instead, they say they’re waiting for the state to decide where Nebraskans can and can’t smoke.
Papillion Mayor James Blinn says, “Our feeling is what’s good for one, is good for all.”
Blinn says some city bans aren’t necessarily about health, saying “by having a smoking ban, you are allowing people to smoke in establishments longer then they would be allowed to, assuming the state passes this law.”
Last year’s unicameral smoking ban would have exempted Omaha and Lincoln, which already had smoking bans on the books.
“I prefer to keep it a person’s choice,” said Suzanne Reeh, the owner of Bullfeathers restaurant in Papillion.
Bullfeathers allows smoking.
“If people don’t want to smoke, that’s fine.? But if you do want to smoke, you ought to have a choice to smoke,” Reeh said.
Some business owners worry a city ban would send business to neighboring cities.
That’s why some like Reeh say a ban is fine, as long as it’s statewide.
It’s a feeling shared by Papillion’s mayor.
“My hope is they pass one law that applies to everybody equally,” Blinn said.
Papillion leaders say they expect the unicameral to consider a smoking ban again next session.
But they’re not sure if places with city ordinances will be exempted from the ban.
So far, Omaha and Lincoln are the only Nebraska cities with a smoking ban in place.


Ralston moves ahead with smoking ordinance

October 17, 2007
BY LEIA BAEZ, WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
Ralston is one step closer to butting in on smokers.
The Ralston City Council Tuesday night gave a 5-1 initial nod to a proposed ordinance that would ban smoking in workplaces but give a temporary reprieve to keno outlets, bars with only limited food service and tobacco-only retail outlets until 2011. An exemption for private clubs, such as the Ralston American Legion Post 373, was also added.
The ordinance, which largely mirrors Omaha’s law, will have to pass two more votes to be adopted. If approved, the ban will take effect Dec. 31.
A public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 6. However, City Councilman Jerry Krause, who led the meeting in Mayor Don Groesser’s absence, opened the floor for “limited” public comments. About 15 people were at the meeting.
Tom Bade, owner of the Village Bar in downtown Ralston, said he is not entirely opposed to the ordinance but would like the temporary reprieve to be extended past 2011. Bade’s bar would be exempt until then because he serves only peanuts, chips and 9-inch microwaveable pizzas.
“Can we extend this two or three more years?” Bade said. “I’m very happy with the way the ordinance was written, but can we extend it to 2015?”
City Attorney Mark Klinker said that could steer Omaha smokers to businesses in Ralston, something the city doesn’t want to happen.
“We want a level playing field,” Klinker said. “We don’t want to have an advantage over Omaha.”
The exemptions in Omaha’s smoking ban, similar to Ralston’s, are also scheduled to expire in May 2011.
Any smoker violating the ordinance could be fined up to $500. Businesses could face fines up to $500 and risk losing their permits to operate.
Mark Welsch, president of the Group to Alleviate Smoking Pollution, was the only person besides Bade to comment during the meeting.
“It’s a positive thing when elected officials start to look at the health of all of the people in their city, especially employees,” Welsch said. “No one should have to breathe smoke in order to have a job.”
Welsch congratulated the city for looking into the issue but said the ordinance “could be better.” As it is currently written, the ordinance gives businesses until Dec. 15 to apply for a keno license, and thus a smoking exemption until 2011. Welsch said he would prefer that the keno license deadline be moved up so businesses and restaurants don’t have as much opportunity to save their smoking sections.
Michael McFadden of the Smokers Club, a national smokers advocacy group, said any ban that affects business isn’t a good thing.
“Anytime you have a governmentally imposed rule that limits how that business can please and attract its customers, that rule is going to have a negative impact,” McFadden said. “We should have free choice. Any worker and owner of a business should decide, ‘Do we want smoking or nonsmoking.’
“Bar owners aren’t stupid. If smoking bans were going to help their businesses, you would see more bars already nonsmoking.”
Councilman Mike Gillespie cast the lone vote against the ordinance Tuesday night — but not because he’s opposed to smoking regulations.
“I vote no because we can address it here and the state can address it, but the federal government really needs to address it,” said Gillespie, who noted that he quit smoking a year ago after smoking for 40 years. “Smoking is a terrible thing.”


City Council answers to smoking ban

06/27/2006
Emily Kampschneider

The Ralston City Council members are not on the fast track to discussing a smoking ban within the Ralston city limits. The Ralston Recorder posed the question to council members after the Omaha City Council passed a smoking ban last week.

In Omaha’s ban, no smoking will be allowed for indoor work and public gathering places as of Oct. 2. At stand-alone bars, keno outlets and Horsemen’s Park, smoking will be allowed there through a five-year grace period. Tobacco-only retail outlets would be permanently exempted.

Ralston Mayor Don Groesser said 10 people inquired about a smoking ban to him and councilman Ben Pries said people both supporting and opposing such a ban has also contacted him.

Groesser, Pries and other council members Craig Alberhasky, Rich Onken and Mike Gillespie said they would not go out of their way to discuss a smoking ban in Ralston. Council members Maureen Konwinski and Jerry Krause said they wouldn’t mind talking about it.

Some council members said business owners should decide if smoking should or should not be allowed to their customers.

“If patrons are offended by business decisions, they may decide for themselves not to visit the establishment,” Pries said. “If employees are offended by business decisions, they may seek employment elsewhere.”

Onken agreed and said the market place should decide. Gillespie pointed out Omaha City Councilman Dan Welch’s comments. Welch was the only one to vote against the smoking ban in Omaha.

Welch talked about government and how it should not get into the prohibition by private business of the use of a legal substance, Gillespie said.

“Tobacco is a legal substance, which is heavily taxed and also subsidized by government, so how can you also ban it?” he said. “Makes no sense unless you totally ban the use of tobacco – period.”

He also said there are many other products that may be considered harmful or deadly, such as automobiles and processed foods. The individual should decide to smoke or not to smoke, he said.

Konwinski said the council could look into the matter, but also agreed with Gillespie’s comments. She also thought that if government passes this, what about other unhealthy habits. For example, her workplace began forcing employees who smoke to pay more for health insurance.

“What if they did that to diabetics who ate candy or overweight people who failed to exercise?” Konwinski said. “Those, too, are personal choices that cost the public money in health care.”

Krause said if he would support any ban it would be of city-owned facilities and property and establishments that serve adults and no one under a certain age.

Smoking bans were not discussed at the June 20 council meeting and are not on the July 5 agenda.

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