City begins countdown to smoking ban

Posted: Sunday, December 23, 2001

The signs already are up at some Juneau businesses. An ad campaign is under way. And training for Juneau's police officers is scheduled next week.

With nine days until a new no-smoking ordinance goes into effect Jan. 1, Juneau is starting to prepare. The new law will prohibit smoking in most offices, many restaurants, buses, taxis and within 10 feet of an entrance to a building that is open to the public.

Patrick Pennoyer, who runs Great NETspectations inside the Juneau Towne Centre on Front Street, said new "no smoking" signs have been posted outside, but he doesn't expect things to change much. Smoking already is prohibited in the mall, he said.

"There hasn't been a problem with people smoking in the building," he said. "The only thing is for people who are used to smoking inside. It might take some getting used to."

Assistant Police Chief Greg Browning said the police will begin enforcing the ordinance when it goes into effect Jan. 1. Fines for a business that is not complying with the new law start at $200. An individual caught smoking where it is illegal will face a $50 fine.

"Like most new laws, we work on education first and voluntary compliance before we move to actually having to issue citations," he said. "Not always, but typically, we'll try to give somebody a warning. Sometimes there are situations where the offense would be bad enough where the officer would give a citation, but it's not going to be typical."

If a customer notices someone smoking in a business where it is not allowed, police suggest talking to management first. If nothing is done, then Browning suggests calling the police department's non-emergency number.

If a business has a patron who insists on smoking after signs have been posted and an employee has explained the law to the person, police also expect a call.

Juneau's smoking ordinance

Where is smoking prohibited?

Many offices, most restaurants, buses, taxis, bingo halls, pull-tab parlors, bowling alleys, movie theaters, convention halls, elevators, waiting rooms, hallways and lobbies. People won't be able to smoke within 10 feet of an entrance, open window or ventilation intake of a building in which smoking is banned.

Where is smoking allowed?

Bars, some restaurants with bars, businesses with four or fewer employers that aren't open to the public, tobacco stores, private clubs, private enclosed areas in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, private homes not used for child care, up to 25 percent of hotel rooms, stage performances and meeting rooms reserved for a private function three days or more in advance.

What are the penalties?

For a business that fails to maintain a smoke-free premise, the first offense brings a $200 fine, the second a $250 fine and a third a $300 fine. An individual who is smoking where it is not allowed will face a $50 fine.

Where can I get more information?

Copies of the ordinance are available on the city's Web site at www.juneau.lib.ak.us. The Juneau affiliate of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (463-3755) is offering technical assistance, brochures and signs. The Juneau Police Department's Web site (www.juneaupolice.com) provides more information about enforcement and how the ordinance applies to businesses.

"JPD has officers who will take the calls in priority order and respond," according to the department's Web site. "They will explain the law to the patron again and take any further action as necessary, including escorting the patron out."

Prosecutors from the city's law department will provide training at the police department next week about the ordinance, City Attorney John Corso said.

Under the new law, City Manager Dave Palmer can issue a 180-day exemption in writing to a business that has made substantial progress toward complying with the smoking ban but isn't able to because of circumstances beyond the owner's control. A lack of money is not an excuse, according to the law.

Palmer said the clerk's office has had a couple of calls about the provision, but he hadn't granted any exemptions as of Thursday.

"The exemption is not just a blanket exemption," he said. "They have to prove an inability to comply that's outside their control materials that didn't show up but were ordered; a contractor that was hired but didn't come to work."

The Juneau affiliate of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence has a $65,000 grant from the Alaska Native Health Board for public education and outreach, Executive Director Matt Felix said. Advertisements in local media about the ordinance began running earlier this month, he said.

In addition, staff members and volunteers with Teens Against Tobacco Use, the Juneau Tobacco Prevention Network and NCADD are visiting almost 500 businesses in town to distribute signs and information about the ordinance, he said.

Voluntary compliance is the goal, Felix said.

"Everybody who has a business that's affected needs to understand the intricacies of the ordinance," he said. "Every business needs to establish a no-smoking policy and every business needs to educate their own employees."

With a few exceptions, the Juneau Tobacco Prevention Network's Mary Becker said most of the businesses she's visited have been supportive.

"Generally they are already smoke-free, want to be or knew this was coming and planned for it," she said. "There seems to be a very positive attitude."

NCADD also will hire an employee to continue public education over the next year, follow up on enforcement and make recommendations for improving the ordinance, Felix said.

The ordinance requires Mayor Sally Smith to convene a task force to review the law within one year and make recommendations to Assembly. The panel's report will cover enforcement, the effect on reducing secondhand smoke exposure and the economic impact on businesses. Smith said she hopes to name task force members soon.

Because Juneau's ordinance exempts some restaurants with bars, it is weaker than similar laws approved elsewhere in the country, Becker said.

"It's weaker than we originally had hoped, but we certainly feel positive about the goals and the steps that were taken to make this a smoke-free community," she said. "Hopefully, the review will show that there are aspects of this ordinance that should be strengthened."

Meanwhile, a complaint challenging the ordinance filed in federal court this fall by Juneau's James Bouschor is pending. A carpenter and member of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles, Bouschor is asking a U.S. District Court judge to issue a ruling about the customary use of tobacco in bars, inns, taverns and lodges. He also said the ordinance isn't clear when it comes to an exemption for bars.

JPD has officers who will take the calls in priority order and respond. They will explain the law to the patron again and take any further action as necessary, including escorting the patron out.

-- Juneau Police Department Web site

"They say they're exempt, but they're not because every employee is guaranteed a smoke-free environment from an employer," he said. "They can come back in one year and take the cigarettes away from the bars and there's no way you can fight it."

City Attorney Corso said the ordinance is straightforward. Bars are exempt, he said.

While smoking will be prohibited in restaurants that serve only beer and wine, restaurants that have a full beverage dispensary license are exempt. The city earlier estimated that the exemption applies to about five Juneau restaurants.

The Hangar on the Wharf falls under the exemption, but owner Murray Damitio said he had made changes anyway.

"We've reduced the smoking area by 25 percent, installed an overhead glass partition, which further restricts the escapement of smoke, and we're pipe- and cigar-free," he said. "They're all voluntary things. We're sensitive to the issue."

The ban also applies to bingo halls. Judy George is president of the community council for Tlingit and Haida Indians of CBJ, which runs bingo games on Fridays and Mondays. The organization is working with NCADD and isn't sure yet what changes will be made, she said.

"We're not sure what physical changes will happen to our building or what people changes will happen in terms of no smoking," she said. "We also don't know what the impact will be on our profits. Hopefully, the whole thing doesn't have a domino effect."

The ordinance allows smoking in up to 25 percent of hotel and motel rooms. Terri Russi, general manager of the Guesthouse Inn, doesn't expect any big changes. Smoking is allowed in 12 of the hotel's 94 rooms, and guests can't light up in the rest of the building, she said.

"Everything's non-smoking so we'll just catch the guy with a cigar who stands outside," she said.

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.



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