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Anchorage voters back a smoking ban in bars

Anti-smoking group raised $121,000 to keep ban on books

Posted: Friday, April 06, 2007

People can still do pretty much what they want in Anchorage bars - drink, shoot pool, sing off-tune karaoke. But they can't smoke. Not after July 1.

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Anchorage voters Tuesday endorsed a new city law that outlaws smoking in bars and bingo halls, among other public places. They soundly defeated an attempt to repeal the law, with more than two-thirds voting to keep it.

"It's a resounding win," said Anchorage Assemblyman Dick Traini, a sponsor of the no-smoking-in-bars ordinance. "So I'm looking for a big smoke-out in July. It will be a good day for the town."

Zach Keeton, a Libertarian who led the effort to repeal the law, said while he is disappointed, "At least the people had the right to vote on it."

The Anchorage Assembly adopted the new no-smoking rules last summer, but gave the businesses until this summer to comply. That left time for an initiative against the ban to make it onto the city election ballot.

The restriction on smoking in bars and bingo halls expands a 2001 city law that already prohibited smoking in most public buildings, such as restaurants, offices and government buildings.

Bars and bingo parlors were among the last public places where smokers could light up.

The smoking debate mostly came down to smokers' rights versus public health concerns.

Jean Sauget, 51, a computer programmer voting at the Spenard Recreation Center, said she wanted to repeal the ban "because if a person has a bar and chooses to let people smoke, I don't have to go there."

Gloria Fairbanks, 55, also of Spenard, voted to keep the law because other peoples' smoking affects her too, she said. "I don't want them to smoke."

Treg Taylor, 30, of Sand Lake, said the smoking decision was hard to make. "I was torn between people having the right to choose, but it's public places," he said.

A group supporting the new law, Keep Anchorage Workplaces Smokefree, raised more than $121,000 in donations to campaign to keep it on the books.

Keeton founded a group called Stomp the Ban to try to overturn the ban. He saw the smoking rules as a step toward fewer personal freedoms. Stomp the Ban raised a couple of thousand dollars.



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