By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Daily Leader
After much thought and discussion on the part of the Liberal City Commission, it ultimately chose not to impose a smoking ban throughout the City of Liberal during its Tuesday evening meeting.
Commissioner Larry Koochel, with the support of commissioner Bob Carlile, moved to remove the first reading of the smoking ordinance from the agenda all together. However, the motion failed with the remaining three commissioners voting against the motion.
During approximately 45 minutes of discussion about the issue, all commissioners disclosed information regarding loved ones who have suffered from health issues as a result of smoking or second hand smoke.
Mayor Joe Denoyer felt the ban should not be in the hands of the commission to decide, but the business owners themselves.
“I do not like second-hand smoke. However, I am not in favor of the smoking ordinance,” Denoyer said. “The simple fact that it should be left not to the state even, it should be left up to the individual business as to what they do in their business. I personally do not think the city should cross those lines. Senator (Tim) Huelskamp and I discussed this at length two years ago, and he is not in favor of the smoking ordinance statewide. He thinks it should be left up to the individual businesses.”
Commissioner Larry Koochel said although he was originally in favor of an ordinance, he soon believed now was not the time to impose such a ban.
“When this was presented, I thought it was a good idea until I slept on it a night or two,” Koochel said. “I know the state is working on it, and I don’t have an idea what they are going to do. We should know within three, four or five months. I just feel like it’s not the right time. The way things are going nationally and in our state and also locally, we implemented a business license, and I feel very good about doing it. I feel like bringing up something when conversation hasn’t cleared yet on the business license, I feel overall, the best thing we can do is rescind this ordinance. I just feel like people are getting told by the state, by the government what they have to do.”
Business owner Carol Beckwith, along with son and co-owner James Beckwith addressed the commission as to how such a ban would affect their business, a small bar.
“I am a new business owner, we have a small bar,” Beckwith said. “In that small bar, people come in, have a beer and smoke a cigarette. Through the last few weeks we have been talking to customers from Salina and Garden City where they have these ordinances, and they have seen businesses close. If that is what you want to do, take away the right of the business owner to allow smoking in their business, you will see businesses close. I am in support of when children are in the area, but if you are 18 years old and have to show an ID to come into a business, you are old enough to vote, you are old enough to serve your country in the military, you are old enough to decide if you want to go into a business that has smoking.”
Liberal Area Coalition for Families Executive Director Elizabeth Stamper gave examples of how smoking ordinances have actually increased food sales in restaurants in Lawrence.
“We run off of grants that actually support the prevention of smoking, and we are really geared toward the prevention of smoking in youth, but one of the over all goals for this grant is a Clean Indoor Air Ordinance for Liberal,” Stamper said. “The Lawrence restaurants and bars in Lawrence passed an ordinance and during that year, $3.2 million sales were increased with food and $4 million the year after the law was put in place. They have only seen a $700,000 decrease in alcohol sales.”
Commissioner Bob Carlile informed commissioners that due to health issues of employees, he has banned smoking throughout J&R Sand.
“Right now there is no smoking in the J&R shop or anywhere, so that was our choice,” Carlile said. “The first resolution that exempts bars and certain places, is something I can support, but I can’t support anything stronger than that.”
Commissioner Dave Harrison understands the reality would be to hope for designated smoking areas. His concern, he said, was for the non-smokers that visit such establishments that still allow smoking.
“Personally, I am not in favor of banning all smoking, even in bars,” Harrison said. “I don’t have a problem with you smoking, that is your right. The worry here is where is the non-smoker’s right? Nobody is trying to take a smoker’s right away to smoke, you can smoke all you want to. It shouldn’t be in a public place where you are exposing others to your smoke. I think that people that don’t smoke also have rights not to be exposed to it.”
Vice Mayor Tim Long felt the right of smokers only goes so far. When it imposes on the rights of non-smokers, he said, it should no longer be a right.
“The last thing I want to do is cause any hardships for any businesses in town,” Long said. “I am not for government involvement in any way, shape or form. Is it a proven fact that second-smoke causes health issues in people? I agree with that. In my humble opinion, a right is only a right if it does not jeopardize the health of other individuals. A lot of the people that work in restaurants and bars are single mothers, or single parents that have children at home. That is the only person they have to take care of them. I believe that they are not working that job because that is what they want to have as a career for life, it is a job they have to have right now, and that is what they can get.
“I am going to give an analogy I got from a college student this weekend. It is kind of a rough analogy. It was her idea of the way it is right now. She said, ‘It is no different than taking a swimming pool and put a rope down the middle and everybody on this side of the pool can urinate in the pool and everybody on this side can’t.’ It is kind of crude, but it is the truth, we are sharing the same air in these places. My concern is for the people working there.”
Commissioner Dave Harrison made a motion to pass an ordinance allowing businesses to allow smoking only in well ventilated designated areas. Vice Mayor Long gave a second to the motion which failed as a result of the opposition of Carlile, Koochel and Denoyer.