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The Legislature’s concern is commendable, but this is an issue for local government.
The issue is a statewide smoking ban in public places.
A bill on the issue died during the last legislative session when it didn’t advance out of the House Rules Committee. It was held there by the committee’s chair, which illustrates the power of that position.
It’s being argued as a piece of important health legislation, in that its effect would be to protect employees and others in public places, such as bars and restaurants. Smokers would have to go outside all public places in Alaska for a smoke.
Bethel was the first Alaska city to ban smoking in public places. That was 20 years ago, and, since then, other cities have done so, as well.
Anchorage and Juneau banned smoking in public places. But Fairbanks and Kodiak haven’t.
Ketchikan discussed the idea of a smoking ban in 2014. Ten years before that, the Ketchikan City Council voted overwhelmingly against a ban.
Without getting into the pros and cons of smoking or a smoking ban, this is an issue that each community should decide. Alaskans’ access to elected officials is more effective at the local level. Given that, those are the officials who should listen to the residents and make a decision in regard to smoking in public places.
It’s likely more communities will adopt smoking bans in the not too distant future. But, if the state is to have a ban, it should be driven by the communities, and all haven’t signed onto the idea as yet.