Protesters of smoking ban present petition

Activists get roughly 5,000 more signatures than what was required

Posted: Friday, November 24, 2006

ANCHORAGE - Opponents of a smoking ban in Anchorage bars and bingo halls have collected enough signatures to put the issue on the city election ballot in April.

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The 12,000 signatures far surpass the 7,100 required by law to put the question before city voters.

The petitions call for a referendum that asks voters whether the second-hand smoke ordinance should be repealed. The city clerk still has to check the signers against registered-voter lists.

Leaders of Stomp the Ban, a group formed by Alaska Libertarian Party officials, collected the signatures.

Zach Keeton and Jason Dowell of Stomp the Ban said their campaign to overturn the smoking ban has more to do with property rights than smoking.

"It's just another infringement on the business owners," Keeton said.

Dowell, who is chair of the Libertarian Party and an Alaska Pacific University student, said Stomp the Ban raised and spent $16,000 gathering signatures.

Jack Powers of Tudor Road Bingo Center Casino said he personally donated $2,500 because he thinks the ban will drive away more than a third of his customers. Powers says bingo operators will lose out because smokers will go outside for cigarettes rather than buy pull tabs during the bingo games' intermission.

"It's happened in a couple of other states," Powers said. "Their pull tabs are going to go right down the toilet."

Assembly member Dick Traini, one of the main backers of the ordinance, is confident that voters will uphold the ban.

"I trust the public to be bright enough that they realize we don't want smoking," Traini said.

Smoking has been against the law since 2001 in most of Anchorage's public buildings, such as restaurants, offices and government buildings.

The Assembly in August approved an extension of the no-smoking law to bars and bingo halls.

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