Petition seeks reversal of smoking ban

Posted: Tuesday, September 22, 2009

UNALASKA - Smokers in this stormy city in the Aleutian Islands are trying to get the City Council to reverse its ban on lighting up in bars.

At least 300 people in the community of 3,500 have signed a petition asking the council to allow smoking in bars or let voters reconsider the issue, said Jessica Culp, who is organizing the petition.

"It's a community issue, and it should have been decided on by the community," she told the Dutch Harbor Fisherman newspaper.

Bartender Julie Schacht said the council should provide shelters outside businesses to protect smokers from Unalaska's weather.

The wind was "ridiculously" strong and frigid when she stepped outside to smoke one day last week, she said, and things will get worse come winter, when snowstorms and hurricane-force winds wallop the island.

"It's going to be terrible," Schacht said.

The ban went into full effect a month ago in an effort to reduce people's exposure to secondhand smoke. People smoking outside bars and other businesses must stand at least 15 feet from the entrance.

The newspaper reports the petition has been circulated at bars and on some fish processing boats.

Culp, 27, plans to present the petition at an upcoming meeting. If the council doesn't act, she plans to start an official drive to hold a public vote.

The council approved the ordinance 6-0 in the spring.

Councilman Richard Peck said his opinion about its merits won't be swayed. Most Unalaska residents like breathing clean air and support the ban, including those at the bars he's visited twice weekly this summer, he said.

He noted that the item was on the agenda at every council meeting for months, so the public had many chances to weigh in.

"I think people really ought to think about what's going on with their health and the health of others," he said.



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