By Nate Smith and Lindsay Owens
WASHINGTON — Reaction to Monday’s City Council decision not to read and eventually vote on a tougher anti-smoking ordinance has kept the debate going on whether Washington’s bars and clubs should be smoke-free.
The council voted 4-2 not to read the ordinance that would have strengthened the state’s anti-smoking laws to include clubs and bars.
Council members Eric Bassler and Blake Chambers voted to read the ordinance while members Joe Fleck, Mike Singleton, Jerry Sidebottom and Jim Greene voted against. Councilman Allen Brown was absent Monday.
Council members did speak about their votes after the council meeting.
Many of the council members said they felt people had a choice. They could choose to go to bars or clubs that allow smoking or they could choose not to go to establishments that allow smoking.
The dangers from smoking that the Smoke-Free Washington group cited in the workplace came into question as well as some of the councilmen felt employees could choose whether they worked in smoking establishments.
“People were saying it wasn’t safe to work there but there are other jobs available,” said Singleton.
“It’s just like Mike said on jobs,” said Sidebottom. “I spent 12 years underground (mining) and it’s dangerous but there were different jobs. I could have went somewhere else but I didn’t.” Greene and Fleck both echoed sentiments that the state government had already exempted the workplaces that still allow smoking and those establishments had done what the state had asked them to do if they wanted to continue to allow smoking there.
Members of Smoke-Free Washington were at Monday’s meeting while representatives of local bars and clubs were not. The organization held a rally in front of the council chambers but came away disappointed when the council turned down the vote.
According to Sally Petty, Tobacco Cessation Coordinator and member of Smoke-Free Washington, the group was disappointed there was no reading nor was there public comment.
“I think it’s a shame that the council wouldn’t even dignify the issue enough to read the ordinance and discuss it, in public, based on science rather than emotion,” Petty said. The group, she said, is currently weighing options on whether to bring the ordinance back to the council in the future.
“I think it should be pointed out the councilmen all enjoy smoke-free workplace protections but they apparently don’t think that bar and club workers, both current and future, deserve the same.” On the Times Herald’s Facebook page, the debate continued when asked if the council should have voted on the ordinance.
“(Councilmen) care more about grass and storefronts than they feel about human lives,” one person posted.
Most, when asked, felt personal freedoms and the right to choose were paramount.
“I say, let ‘em smoke. The government is already taken enough of our rights,” another user posted.