Smoking bans could go before voters in two Kansas City suburbs

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The proposals would not affect smoking outdoors or in homes.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Anti-smoking groups in two Kansas City suburbs say they have gathered enough signatures to put proposed smoking bans on the November ballot.

The move in Lee's Summit and Independence gives voters a chance to pass tougher smoking rules that city councils have refused to pass.

The two suburbs already have some anti-smoking laws in place, but still allow patrons to light up at places including bars, restaurants, bowling alleys and bingo parlors. If passed, the new law would end such workplace smoking.

The proposals would not affect smoking outdoors or in homes.

Clean Air Lee's Summit submitted 4,800 signatures, well above the 3,708 required. Clean Air Independence submitted signatures Friday that brought its total to 4,500, above the necessary 3,433.

"Our two communities with a combined population of over 200,000 are doing more than sounding the alarm," said Ralph Ruckman, an Independence dentist who supports the anti-smoking bill. "We are going to do something about it."

Once the signatures are approved, the city councils can opt to simply pass the initiatives or go forward with the election.

Independence Mayor Don Reimal said he was inclined to put the issue on the ballot.

"With issues of this magnitude, people ought to have a right to voice their opinions," he said.

Lee's Summit Mayor Pro Tem James Freeman said the council would discuss the issue next month.

The efforts in Lee's Summit and Independence are part of a pursuit for a regional ban on smoking in restaurants and bars.

Kansas City, Mo., has passed a version of a ban, but it depends on a majority of other cities in the region to follow suit. Prairie Village, Kan., has voted to ban smoking if surrounding communities, including Kansas City, take action. Olathe, Kan., and Leawood, Kan., both have discussed smoking measures. Fairway, Kan., passed one; Mission, Kan., turned one down.

Supporters say the issue is a matter of public health. But business owners worry about the effect of such bans.

"I think businesses should have the right of choice if people smoke in bars or not," said Sue Pfeiffer, who owns the Do Drop Inn in Lees Summit.

Information from: The Kansas City Star,

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