Battle over smoking ban heats up in Washington state
SEATTLE, WA — Two groups, one led by the chairman of the Pierce County health board and the other by the entertainment industry, are campaigning to place their own versions of a statewide smoking ban on November’s ballot.
The Entertainment Industry Coalition’s initiative, filed with the secretary of state late Friday, would ban smoking in public spaces open to minors, such as family restaurants, but not in bars or non-tribal casinos.
Breathe Easy Washington, led by Kevin Phelps, chairman of the Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health, plans to counter on Monday by filing an initiative that would ban smoking in all public, indoor spaces, including bars, restaurants and non-tribal casinos.
The ban proposed by Breathe Easy would mirror one approved in early January by Pierce County, the only county in the state with such a law.
Each group will need to collect nearly 198,000 valid signatures by July 2 to place its initiative on the ballot.
Breathe Easy’s proposal is being sponsored by Patty Carlson, a bartender at a Seattle bowling alley.
“I’m afraid I’m going to suffer long-term health problems from having to work in a smoke-filled place,” Carlson said in a prepared statement released by the organization Sunday. “You can’t believe what it’s like to work for eight hours in a smoky place.
“I’ve inhaled a lot of poison over the years.”
Scott Peterson, a spokesman for Breathe Easy, said the group will need to raise at least $500,000 and collect at least 250,000 signatures, to provide a cushion in case some are invalidated.
Calls to the Entertainment Industry Association were not immediately returned Sunday.
Roger Hobson, casino manager at Freddie’s Club in Fife, said the industry’s approach is reasonable. His club has been complying with Pierce County’s ban for about a week and a half, he said, and has seen business plummet by about 20 percent to 30 percent in the casino and even more than that at the bar.
“We’re obviously totally against the ban that’s currently in effect,” Hobson said Sunday. “We agree that no, children under 18 shouldn’t be subjected to second-hand smoke. But if you’re over 21, you have a right to choose. If you don’t like it, leave.
“Look at our bartenders now,” he added. “Sure, maybe their lungs are healthier, but they’re not making any money.”
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