Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, because if you plan on smoking ‘em publicly in Dodge City, it just got a little harder. In a unanimous vote with almost no discussion, commissioners approved a resolution Monday night that would put serious constraints on a business's ability to allow public smoking.


 

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, because if you plan on smoking ‘em publicly in Dodge City, it just got a little harder.

In a unanimous vote with almost no discussion, commissioners approved a resolution Monday night that would put serious constraints on a business's ability to allow public smoking. The ordinance, which altered one paragraph in Kansas state law, allows businesses to designate either a section of their building, or the entire building, as completely smoking.

However, to be allowed to permit smoking, owners must meet several strict criteria. According to the new ordinance, which will go into effect Sept. 1, there are at least eight requirements owners must meet.

The smoking area must be enclosed on all sides by solid, impermeable walls or windows extending from floor to ceiling. The area must be clearly designated as smoking, and access shall be restricted to only those who wish, or have no objection, to smoking.

The area must also have a brand-new air system that would pump out a "significant" amount of the smoke. The entire process, from start to end, could end up being relatively costly.

After all construction and installation was finished, business owners would be required to submit to an examination of the building to make sure all criteria were met. Only after the business was given the seal of approval would smoking be allowed. Up until that point, the businesses must be non-smoking.

City Manager Ken Strobel said he was happy with how the ordinance came out.

“Is it a compromise between two positions?” he said. “Yes, without question. However, I feel it’s a reasonable compromise.”

Vice Mayor Rick Sowers, who helped spearhead the compromise, said the ordinance would work because it gives business owners some rights. But due to the large cost involved in meeting the city’s standards, Sowers said it was likely many businesses would simply opt to go non-smoking.

Commissioner Terry Lee said he stood by his conviction that it was a mistake to completely ban smoking. However, he said he voted for the ordinance because any step in the right direction was a good one.

Some controversy arose around the issue as the question was raised whether the new city ordinance would be less restrictive than state law. If so, there would have been a potential for a lawsuit.

State law currently allows a "percentage" of businesses to be smoking. The question was raised that if the city commission allowed some businesses to have 100 percent smoking, would that constitute a less restrictive law?

However, Strobel found a Kansas attorney general's opinion from 1987 that said although the law may not have intended to allow smoking in 100 percent of the building, it does not ban such designations outright.

Aaron and Lindy Duree, who helped usher the debate to the commissioners' table and attended nearly every commission meeting where the ban was discussed, said the decision was bittersweet.

“I’m happier with where it finally ended up,” Lindy said. “It’s not what I wanted. But it’s a start.”

Aaron said there was at least a bit of silver lining.

“I’m finally going to have my Monday nights back,” he said.

Dodge City Daily Globe