Garden City Council moves to ban smoking in many, but not all, public places

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comJune 23, 2014 

The Garden City Council unanimously supported an ordinance that would ban smoking inside many public places, including offices and restaurants. But that was only after an amendment was made to allow smoking in 21-and-over bars and bingo halls.

The first reading of the smoking ordinance occurred Monday night, after an hour-long public hearing. The ordinance can be amended in other ways in the coming weeks, and it doesn't become law until after the third reading.

Steve Gibson, owner of Shorty's Saloon, wiped tears from his eyes outside city hall after the meeting. He was shocked, but elated by the council's decision.

"I think it's very open-minded of them to look at alternatives," said Gibson, concerned that he didn't have any easy way to accommodate smokers outside his facility if they were banned from smoking inside.

About 30 people attended a public hearing Monday night, with 15 stepping to the podium to speak directly to the four-member council. Ten people spoke in support of a ban on smoking in public places, with more than one person saying workers shouldn't have to choose between their jobs and their health.

Those who spoke in favor of the smoking ban included a physician, a nurse and advocates from the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association and American Lung Association. Two officials from Central District Health Department — Director Russell Duke and board chairman Steve Scanlin — both urged adoption of a smoke ban.

Scanlin said he was proud that Boise, which adopted a smoke ban that took effect in January of 2012, had topped a Men's Health magazine list of the nation's healthiest cities.

"We invite Garden City to join that category," Scanlin said.

Gibson and representatives from two other Garden City bars — The Ranch Club and Dive Bar — asked the council to allow the marketplace to determine whether smoking continues, not the government. One longtime Garden City resident said she felt smoking was a personal decision that shouldn't be regulated by the government, and she wanted to see the issue put to a citywide vote.

Council President Elfreda Higgins said that while she would prefer to have all public places be no-smoking, she supported the smoking ban ordinance with an amendment granting smoking in 21-and-older bars and bingo halls.

"I try to temper everything with common sense," she said.

Though they voted for the amended ordinance, council members Pam Beaumont and William Mitchell expressed reservations about adding new government regulations. Councilman Jeff Souza said public sentiment on the issue had shifted, due in part to widespread dissemination of information on the health impacts of tobacco smoke.

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