No smoke exemptions

Posted: Friday, December 21, 2001

The Juneau Tobacco Prevention Network would like to thank all of the citizens who have supported and made possible the adoption of the Juneau smoke-free indoor air ordinance that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2002. This is a positive step toward making Juneau a better place to live and a more attractive place to visit.

Time and again, the residents and policy-makers of Juneau have stood up for clean water and air, and we continued to move in that direction with this ordinance. The original ordinance was carefully drafted by the City Attorney's office, the Human Resource Committee, and the Committee of the Whole to ensure its integrity, effectiveness, and to provide a level playing field for all businesses. It is therefore with mixed feelings that we sat and watched the final vote on Oct. 1.

Although we are grateful that the ordinance protects the majority of public places and work spaces from secondhand smoke, a small special interest group lobbied the Juneau Assembly to exempt restaurants with full-service bars. This may appear reasonable at the onset; this is in fact a significant change that now allows smoking in some restaurants on the grounds of a technical license qualification.

These last-minute changes, which were made without any public input, are not only allowing the employees and children to be exposed to the third leading preventable health risk in Alaska, but also provide a select few businesses a distinct advantage over their competitors.

These changes also complicate the ability of the city to enforce the ordinance and for businesses and residents to comply with the law. We are pleased that more workers will have the right to clean indoor air; however, we do not support the exemption that gives some businesses an unfair advantage and urge the current Assembly to strike it from this law.

Michael Powell

Juneau Tobacco Prevention Network

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