State tightens restrictions on smoking aboard ferries

Indoor smoking allowed only in Columbia's bar

Posted: Thursday, December 27, 2001

Smokers traveling the Alaska Marine Highway may find fewer places to light up under a newly clarified policy.

After receiving complaints from some passengers, Alaska Marine Highway System General Manager George Capacci updated the ferry system's smoking policy earlier this month.

Under the new policy, smoking is not allowed inside state ferries, with the exception of one designated area in the ferry Columbia's bar where there is adequate ventilation. The goal is to make things consistent system-wide, Capacci said.

"We've had inconsistent enforcement on smoking inside the ships. Some you can, some you can't," Capacci said. "I didn't want it to be arbitrary."

Smoking will be allowed in designated areas on weather decks and designated open areas aft of the solarium. Otherwise, smoking is off limits for passengers and crew in lounges, observation areas, passageways, dining areas, the car deck and inside the solarium, according to the policy. In some cases, the ferry system will post new signs, Capacci said.

Alaska's smoking law was approved in 1984 and revised in 1990, said Tom Park, an environmental health officer with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

While the ferry system has received some complaints from people who want to smoke inside the bars on state ferries, it has received more complaints from nonsmokers about tobacco smoke, Capacci said. The biggest change may be for crew members who smoke, he said.

"We've got to be consistent. The public has to understand and the crews have to understand," he said. "Hopefully it will lead to a better experience."

Joanna Markell can be reached at

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