Most Utahans Reject Ban on Smoking in Clubs

A new poll shows a majority of Utahans reject a ban on smoking in private clubs and bars, preferring to leave the decision up to club management.
A Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates shows 57 percent of those surveyed feel the decision to allow smoking in bars or private clubs should rest there, as opposed to 40 percent who favor a statewide ban.
“I love this poll,” said Bob Brown, vice president of the Utah Hospitality Association, which represents close to 60 clubs and taverns.
“I think the majority of Utah just told us that individual choices and freedoms are most important. If people don’t want to deal with smoking, they have the choice to just not go in there. They are tired of Big Brother government telling them what to do.”
The results, however, don’t discourage Sen. Michael Waddoups, R-West Jordan, the lawmaker sponsoring amendments that would invoke the ban.
“It is just like every other issue. You have to get it out for public debate,” he said, adding he doesn’t believe there has been enough discussion to adequately inform residents of the health hazards.
In fact, Waddoups said the results are better than he had hoped for given there’s been so little discussion on the issue so far.
“Most people don’t go to clubs in this state, so they would say sure, let the clubs decide, not realizing it is a problem for people who have to work in this environment.”
Tom Guinney, a Salt Lake Valley Board of Health member who also is a partner in the Gastronomy chain, agrees.
“The surgeon general said in 1964 that smoking is not a good idea. The debate on that was over 20 years ago.
Secondhand smoke kills over 200 people a year in the state of Utah and costs us $275 million. It is protection of customers and a workers’ rights issue.”
Gastronomy, in fact, is hosting a 2 p.m. Sunday press conference at the Oyster to make an announcement related to the smoking ban issue.
The statewide poll, conducted Jan. 3-6, tapped 623 households and included 430 respondents who said their religious preference was that of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which proscribes smoking tobacco.
Of those 430, 338 described themselves as “very active,” 55 said they were “somewhat active” and 37 said they were not active. The poll surveyed 426 respondents who described their political ideology as very conservative or somewhat conservative.
Brown, who owns Cheers to You, said the results show that the notion of “freedom of choice” prevails among Utahns, despite their political or religious makeup.
“These places — only adults go in. We are all adults, so why can’t we make a decision for ourselves? I think Utah just said we are adults and let us make the decision.”
The proposed statewide ban on smoking in private clubs and taverns comes in the midst of a Salt Lake Valley Board of Health consideration to adopt regulations that would prohibit smoking in certain outdoor venues, such as Hogle Zoo, public playgrounds and baseball diamonds.
New York and California have statewide smoking bans that prohibit lighting up in bars and clubs, while Florida is smoke-free except in those bars that do not serve prepared food.
Across the country, states have adopted a variety of indoor smoking bans, and since 2003 the trend is catching on to impose more restrictions on smokers, including outdoor prohibitions.
Arizona voters may be asked next year in a ballot initiative to invoke a statewide ban prohibiting smoking in public places, and closer to home Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson wants to ban smoking at the Salt Lake City International Airport, where puffers use ventilated rooms.
Utah was the first state in the nation to go “smoke free” in 1995, when its indoor clean air act took effect.
It prohibits smoking in restaurants, stores, bowling alleys and businesses, but exempts private clubs, taverns, guest rooms at hotels and motels and fraternal and religious organizations.

Originally written By Amy Joi Bryson
Deseret Morning News

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