S.D. may get smoking banMITCHELL, S.D. - Many area legislators are expecting some incarnation of a smoking ban to appear in the upcoming legislative session, but varying answers about support for such a bill could mean the issue will be contentious.
By: Austin Kaus The Daily Republic, Worthington Daily Globe
MITCHELL, S.D. - Many area legislators are expecting some incarnation of a smoking ban to appear in the upcoming legislative session, but varying answers about support for such a bill could mean the issue will be contentious.
Of the 21 legislators in The Daily Republic coverage area, eight said recently that they will support or will likely support a tighter ban on smoking, while seven said they will oppose it or will likely oppose it. Another five said they want to see the legislation before forming an opinion, and one could not be reached for comment.
Current state law prohibits smoking in most places of employment and indoor public areas, but makes exceptions for lodging, businesses primarily used for the sale of tobacco or alcoholic beverages, and businesses where alcohol is served. The Associated Press reported last week that the South Dakota Tobacco-Free Kids Network had launched a campaign to ban smoking in all businesses in the state.
Sen. Dave Knudson, R-Sioux Falls, said he has been working with the South Dakota Tobacco-Free Kids Network and intends to co-sponsor legislation that would remove exceptions for bars, restaurants and casinos. He was undecided on whether or not an exception for hotels would be included.
“I’ve had a longtime interest in the public health aspects of controlling tobacco use,” Knudson said.
Sen. Dan Ahlers, D-Dell Rapids, said he is not in favor of a complete public ban, believing it to be detrimental to certain small businesses. Ahlers, who said he does not smoke, would prefer to see legislative energy devoted to other issues.
“We have budget issues that we need to deal with and issues like this seem to get everybody sidetracked,” he said. “In my opinion, we have more important things to work on.”
While Rep. Peggy Gibson, D-Huron, said she would probably support a total public smoking ban, she agrees with Ahlers that there are bigger issues to tackle in session, like education issues.
“Personally, I would like to just not have to deal with it,” she said.
Rep. Lance Carson, R-Mitchell, and Rep. Larry Lucas, D-Mission, said they would definitely be in favor of increasing the number of public places where smoking would not be allowed.
Carson said he remains concerned, though, about the effect such a ban might have on smaller businesses.
“It’s going to be kind of a problem for small communities and stuff to run their small cafes and bars,” he said.
The opinions surrounding a potential public smoking ban don’t follow party lines. Sen. Julie Bartling, D-Burke; Rep. Gerald Lange, D-Madison; and Rep. Jim Putnam, R-Armour, say they’d probably vote against a total public ban, although Lange said he would likely vote for a ban that included exceptions for bars.
“I think there’s probably a point and place in some public places that smoking should be prohibited … but I think right now if I had to vote today, I would oppose (a total ban),” Bartling said.
Rep. Kent Juhnke, R-Vivian, said he would certainly vote against a total public ban while Sen. Cooper Garnos, R-Presho, said it was “pretty darn likely” that he, too, would reject a total ban.
“Traditionally, I have given the people that own the establishments the opportunities to run the business as free as they can…,” Garnos said. “I know there’s a good argument why and why not, but up to this point, I have always sided with the freedom of choice in terms of if people can smoke in a public establishment.”
Juhnke said, “I’ve always been of the mindset that the government shouldn’t infringe where government doesn’t need to infringe.”
Rep. Russell Olson, R-Madison, agrees.
“I think it’s a local control issue,” he said.
Sen. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell, said he’s traditionally held the opinion that residents can “vote with their feet” when it comes to business that allow smoking. However, Vehle said he would consider a total public smoking ban. In fact, it’s the only incarnation of anti-smoking legislation he would consider.
“It would have to be total (with) nothing that’s left out,” Vehle said. “You’ve got to make it all-inclusive or it’s just not fair competitively to everyone.”
Sen. Tom Hansen, R-Huron, said it is likely he would support a total public smoking ban in South Dakota. As chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services committee, Hansen said he has a special connection to the issue of smoking in public places and potential legislation to ban it.
“I would probably support it,” Hansen said. “There’s some pretty good evidence that would indicate secondhand smoke is a danger.”
Others who said they were likely to support a tighter ban on smoking include Rep. Mitch Fargen, D-Flandreau; Rep. Oran Sorenson, D-Garretson; and Rep. Tim Rave, R-Baltic.
Sen. Frank Kloucek, D-Scotland; Rep. Thomas Deadrick, R-Platte; and Rep. Noel Hamiel, R-Mitchell, say they’ll wait until they can study the exact legislation before making any decision on the matter.
“There’s a public health concern out there and, from what I hear, they can demonstrate today that it’s even worse than what was thought probably 10 years ago,” Deadrick said. “I want to see what the evidence is for that.”
Admitting that it was a difficult issue, Rep. Quinten Burg, D-Wessington Springs, said he is concerned with the potential detrimental health effects secondhand smoke might have on employees.
He’s also concerned with whether or not Gov. Mike Rounds is serious about supporting such a ban.
“We’ll see … whether he wants to take the lead on this or whether he wants us to take all the bad and do all the dirty work,” Burg said. “I’m getting kind of tired of being the whipping boy on a lot of this stuff.”
Rep. Kim Vanneman, R-Ideal, was not available for comment.
The 2009 legislative session will begin Jan. 13.