Earth Notes
11:01 pm
Tue October 24, 2006

Voters to decide on two smoking bans

Flagstaff, AZ – Proposition 201, otherwise known as the Smoke-Free Arizona Act, prohibits smoking in most indoor public places, including restaurants and bars. It would add a two cent tax to cigarettes to pay for the ban's enforcement and treatment programs for those who wish to quit. Prop 201 is backed by several health organizations like the American Lung Association.

Proposition 206, otherwise known as the Non-Smoker Protection Act, would ban smoking in some indoor public places. Exceptions include bars and separately ventilated bars within restaurants. The main financial backer is the tobacco company R-J Reynolds.

Now this is where most people get confused but 206 spokeswoman Camilla Strongin says it's clear to her.

STRONGIN: Well, I don't think there's confusion at all. The Arizona Non Smoker Protection Act is a smoking ban it's a comprehensive smoking ban the only exception is an adult environment, which a bar is.

Strongin says Prop 206 lets the owners of small businesses decide for themselves whether to allow smoking.

STRONGIN: We really feel they're the best people to decide how to run their businesses and as small business owners across Arizona have certainly stated by joining Proposition 206 they feel they should be making the decision about what happens in their bar and that should not be something that's mandated through the government.

Prop 201 spokesman Troy Cordor says that's what R-J Reynolds wants you to believe.

CORDOR: RJR and the tobacco industry has a proven track record of going into states where there's smoking bans and creating falsely named committees. In Arizona it's the Non Smokers Protection Act. In Ohio it's Smokeless Ohio. They find front groups like the Arizona Licensed Beverage Association to make it an issue about small businesses. We all know that this isn't an issue about small businesses. RJR does not care about small businesses. They're sinking 6 million dollars to date into this initiative to protect one thing and that's their profits.

Flagstaff business owners are divided on the issue. Flagstaff voters passed a smoking ban in restaurants and bars about a year ago.

Roger Hailey has owned Starlite Lanes bowling alley in Flagstaff for more than three decades. Up until recently he allowed smoking. Since he went smoke-free, he says business has improved.

HAILEY: T3 Actually our bowling has picked up because a lot of families that didn't used to come here because of smoking come now so we see a lot more families on weekends coming in. And the bar initially it slowed down a little but most everybody's come back.

But Hailey still thinks it should be the business owner's decision.

In downtown Flagstaff at the Beaver Street Brewery and Whistle Stop Caf , the owners stand by Prop 201 and their smoke-free environment.

Nearby at the Weatherford Hotel, general manager Matt Bial (BEE-al) says he's going to wait and see the results of the election before making a decision. But he says since Flagstaff's smoking ban went into effect his business has improved slightly and it's better for his employees.

BIAL: It's a more comfortable work environment for them. And I think they appreciate coming to work more instead of getting home being a non smoker having to deal with all the smell in their clothes and in their hair (chuckle).

Jacque Sullivan (pronounced Jackie) is the owner of Jacque's 19th Hole. She says her customers are mostly smokers so she supports Prop 206. She also says 201's tax is unfair. That's an argument R-J Reynolds makes in this TV commercial.

TV AD: Prop 201 raises taxes nearly $5 million a year to ban smoking in bars? That's ridiculous. That's enough to pay for classroom supplies for more than a 120,000 Arizona school children. 201 is a ridiculous waste of our tax dollars.

Prop 206 spokeswoman Camilla Strongin used a similar argument.

STRONGIN: When you add it all up it's twice as much as we're spending to track sex offenders in Arizona.
MORALES: But that's a tax only on smokers the way you're phrasing that and the way the commercial is phrased it sounds like it's a tax on all Arizonans. It's really only a tax on people who choose to buy cigarettes. Correct?
STRONGIN: It's a tax increase.
MORALES: On cigarettes.
STRONGIN: Absolutely, it's a tax increase on cigarettes. It's a tax increase on smokers. I think it ends up being about 2 cents a pack. That money certainly could be better spent on a lot of areas where we all agree there are problems.

Prop 201's Troy Cordor says city officials requested enforcement dollars.

CORDOR: What prop 201 did is it talked to mayors and councilmen across the state and they said do not give us an unfunded mandate we support it but please do not put enforcement on our budgets.

Political analyst Fred Solop says if Proposition 206 wins, it would change the smoking restrictions in Flagstaff, Sedona, Prescott and other municipalities that have passed bans.

SOLOP: 206 would allow this state law this state proposition to supersede all local ordinances regarding smoking. So in other words if a local community such as Flagstaff had a more stringent ban, this would override that and essentially would be telling communities like Flagstaff, like Sedona, like Tempe you do not have the power or the ability to ban smoking in a more comprehensive fashion.

According to recent polls Arizona voters are almost evenly divided between the two measures. If they both pass, the one with the most votes prevails in any area where the two offer conflicting provisions.

That means that if 201 were to get the most votes all indoor workplace smoking would be banned, even in bars.

If 206 is the top vote-getter, smoking could continue in bars.

But in areas where one ballot measure is silent and the other offers a specific provision, that portion prevails.

For example, if both pass, the cigarette tax and enforcement provisions in Proposition 201 would take effect.

For Arizona Public Radio I'm Laurel Morales.