Opponents debate changing smoking ordinance

Juneau Chamber of Commerce hosts a panel discussion today

Posted: Friday, December 05, 2003

Anti-smoking advocates and opponents will square off today on whether to make all of the city's workplaces and public places smoke-free.

The Juneau Chamber of Commerce is hosting a panel debate at noon at the Aspen Hotel where participants will argue the merits of changing the city's smoking ordinance. At issue is making bars and all bar/restaurants smoke-free.

The Juneau Clean Air Coalition lobbied heavily for a no-smoking ordinance in the city. The ordinance took effect Jan. 1, 2002, but exempted standalone bars and some bar/restaurants, Coalition Chair Joan Cahill said. The coalition now seeks to eliminate smoking in all of the city's workplaces and public places, she said.

"It has always been our goal to offer protection for all workers in the workplace, not just a select group," Cahill said.

The coalition waited to mobilize after a new Assembly was seated in October, she said.

Some bars will go out of business, and the city will lose sales and property tax revenue as it faces a deficit in fiscal year 2004, bar owners said in an interview.

Patrons may come into the Triangle Club for one drink, but then they will likely go home so they can smoke, owner Leeann Thomas said.

"Bars historically have been places to go to be social," Thomas said. "I think it will extremely hurt my business."

The anti-smoking advocates want to prevent smoking in many establishments they do not even patronize, said Ethan Billings, owner of Marlintini's Lounge.

Cahill wants to protect workers from second-hand smoke, but Thomas said all of her employees already smoke and chose to work there because it was a smoking establishment.

Bar patrons prevented from smoking inside will be forced outside, exposing more people to second-hand smoke, Thomas and Billings said. It will also exacerbate the pedestrian congestion downtown during the summer tourist season, they said.

"I personally don't smoke, but my customers have a right to," Thomas said.

• Tara Sidor can be reached at tara.sidor@juneauempire.com

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