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September 18, 2008 3:00 am

Citizens should engage in smoking-ban discussion

Written by Tribune Staff

Until a few years ago, The Powell Tribune building housed a separate room where employees could smoke. The area has since been renovated, and employees smoke outdoors now.

The Tribune chose to close its smoking area. Some Wyoming businesses may not have a choice in the future.

A proposal for a statewide ban on smoking in restaurants and bars was discussed Monday by the Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Committee. A similar bill did not advance in last year's budget session of the Legislature, and Cowboy State citizens now have another chance to make their concerns known.

Americans realize that smoking is deadly — that's not a news flash by any means. Proponents of smoking bans cite health risks as reason enough to put the kibosh on smoking in restaurants and bars statewide.

After all, smoking-related illnesses continue to be the No. 1 cause of death and disease in the nation.

Smoking bans already exist in some Wyoming communities, including Laramie and Cheyenne. Many cities and states in the United States have banned smoking, based on valid second-hand smoking concerns.

Powell has a history of leading the way in smoking bans. In November 1987, Powell's Southside Elementary became the first school in Wyoming to enforce a smoking ban.

Some Wyoming business owners worry about the economic effect, saying that a smoking ban could seriously impact restaurant and bar profits.

According to an Associated Press article, Rep. Jack Landon, R-Sheridan, said state officials understand the health risks of smoking, but he doesn't know if the state should intervene. He said people have the freedom to choose not to visit businesses that permit smoking.

What will state lawmakers choose?

Smoking or non?

It has yet to be decided.

As lawmakers open up public discussion, this is a chance for Wyoming residents — on either side of the issue — to voice their opinions.