Should smoking be allowed in Anchorage bars?

Smoking in bars should be banned

By Jessica Sincich
The Northern Light

A peer of mine once mentioned that she was a bartender. I heard terrible stories of the asthmatic problems that many bartenders developed while working. I also heard of the “smurfs” these bartenders would cough up at the end of the night; just picture black loogies and you’ll get the idea.

These complications were caused by the excessive secondhand smoke the bartenders had to endure. After hearing stories like these, it is clear that a change needs to take place.

Anchorage voters will soon decide if they want to uphold the indoor-smoking ban voted on by the Anchorage Assembly. All bars are included in this ban.If the initiative is not repealed, smoking will no longer be allowed within five feet of a bar’s entrance. Smoking will be only allowed on the patios and decks.

Thank goodness.

It is about time that Anchorage falls in line with many other cities around the country. So far, 18 states have approved smoking bans in all places of employment, including bars. Many other cities have independently approved smoking bans as well.

The smoking ban idea is not new, as smoking in restaurants and businesses has been banned in Anchorage since 2001.

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Looking at Alaska smoking statistics, there is no doubt that this ban is needed.

According to the Alaska Tobacco Facts, 2006, “In 2004, more Alaskans died from the effects of smoking than from suicide, motor vehicle crashes, homicide, HIV/AIDS, and influenza combined.”

The study also concluded that only 24 percent of Alaska residents are smokers. Why is such a fuss being made over a large minority?

Another shocking statistic is that eight out of ten smokers believe that secondhand smoke is harmful and that people should be protected from it.

So if 80 percent of smokers themselves feel people should be protected from secondhand smoke, then what is the problem in upholding the ban?

The opponents of the ban were required to obtain 7,000 signatures to put the issue on the next ballot. The “news” was that 12,000 signatures were received. Wow, 12,000 signatures in a city of 275,000 people. Impressive.

The smokers contesting this ban are not considering the employees of these bars and the fact that they have to tolerate the excessive smoke for hours at a time. And to say this is all excusable because they work in a bar is unacceptable. If someone were to come and fill my office smoking a cigarette, I wouldn’t be happy about it either.

The purpose of going to the bar is to spend time with friends, dance and drink. Not to light a cigarette.

Just because a quarter of the population smokes, it doesn’t mean the rest of us should have to.

Banning smoking is not only option

By James Halpin
The Northern Light

It should come as no surprise to anyone that secondhand smoke is unhealthy. That’s why it is utterly stunning when, in the wake of a study detailing the dangers of secondhand smoke, the Anchorage Assembly reacts in a truly knee-jerk fashion.

Banning smoking in bars is, simply put, ridiculous. There are certainly other unhealthy things that a person can do in a bar: Drinking is one thing that comes to mind.

Sure, the 20,000 alcohol-related deaths reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2006 (not including accidents and homicides) can’t compare to the more than 400,000 people who die each year from smoking.

What they can do, though, is dwarf the estimated 3,000 deaths each year attributed to secondhand smoke, as reported by the CDC.

The point is, nonsmokers are concerned about their pristine lungs being contaminated, yet people die from drinking almost seven times more often than from secondhand smoke.

Despite that lapse in judgment, most smokers can probably respect the fact that nonsmokers don’t want to have to come home from a bar smelling like an ashtray. That can be avoided simply by having separate facilities.

The Peanut Farm comes to mind. It has a brand-new, state-of-the-art section with projection TVs and live entertainment. There is also no smoking. People can smoke on the old side, but the tradeoff is watching the game on tiny, old screens. That’s fine.

The two bars are in separate buildings and there is absolutely no danger of anyone getting smoked out. And for employees who complain about their health while choosing to work in a bar that allows smoking, the workers there can have the option to work in the nonsmoking area.

Of course, not every bar can afford to build a separate smoking area. There is a simple solution to that: Create a smoking room, complete with air filtration and a sealed door. Then nobody except the one employee – preferably a smoker – that needs to clean it will have to brave the toxic air.

The Sea Galley has such a room, and anybody who doesn’t want to be affected by it, can easily avoid it.

Such rooms shouldn’t be mandatory, but at least then bar owners would have the option to accommodate the large portion of their clientele – about 25 percent of Alaska’s population, according to the American Lung Association – who would appreciate it.

Those who choose not to set aside such a room would find – much to their customers’ dismay – their entryways clogged with smokers. Despite the fact that walking past cigarette smoke outside is about as harmful as idling down an exhaust-choked Tudor Road, nonsmokers continue to whine about having to smell even the most minute whiff of it.

But they don’t have to.