Tobacco bill makes progress

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Saturday, March 19, 2016 9:13pm
  • News

The bill that would ban smoking in the workplace is making progress in the Alaska Senate.

SB 1, or the “Take it Outside Act”, sponsored by Sen. Peter Micchiche, R-Soldotna, has passed the Senate Finance Committee, and is headed to the floor for a vote. If passed this session, smoking and the use of e-cigarettes would be illegal in all public areas and any establishment with hired employees.

“The bill is strong and will provide protections to employees in many areas of the state currently not protected by such a law,” said Emily Nenon, Alaska government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

Once passed in the senate, the bill will move to the House, Nenon said. However, HB 328, sponsored by Rep. Dave Talerico, R-Healy, “Take it Outside’s” companion legislation is sitting in the House, not yet having started the committee process, she said.

If it is eventually signed by Gov. Bill Walker the bill will become effective Oct. 1, she said.

The Cancer Action Network is one of many collaborating organizations, including the Alaska’s chapter of the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association, the Alaska Native Health Board, among others, Nenon said. The groups have collected nearly 1,000 resolutions from businesses and organizations supporting the legislation throughout the state, she said.

Kenai Mayor Pat Porter is one of the Cancer Action Network’s local advocates. She said most of the area’s business owners want to go smoke-free.

“The only feedback that I have gotten over all these years is that the majority of them would love to do that, they just want to be on a level playing field,” Porter said.

Those that do allow smoking in their establishment are worried they will lose business, that patrons will take their business out of town, Porter said. From what she has heard, those that have already chosen not to allow smoking in recent years have actually seen an increase in customers, she said.

Polling data collected by the Cancer Action network shows 88 percent of Alaskans want all workers protected, said Noe Baker, senior specialist of media advocacy for the cancer network. Nearly 70 percent prefer laws that prohibits smoking in public buildings, offices, bars and restaurants, she said.

“Given Alaska’s fiscal crisis, this bill will save the state money,” Baker said. “Right now, Alaska spends $438 million annually in health care costs associated with tobacco-related illnesses. Making all of Alaska businesses completely smoke-free will help save the state almost $5 million in cancer, heart disease and heart attack costs within five years.”

Porter said her husband and his sister both have asthma, having been exposed to second-hand smoke as adolescents. She said many young people take what jobs they can get because they need the money, not thinking 30 years down the road that regularly inhaling tobacco products in their work environment may have serious repercussions.

If passed, businesses would be required to post no-smoking signs, and remove ash trays from inside the establishment, Nenon said.

“Laws like this are largely self-enforcing,” Nenon said. “The formal enforcement of this law will be through a complaint-driven process. If a complaint is filed with the state about a violation of the law, the state will first reach out to the business with education about the law, and notify a local community tobacco prevention partner to help provide education if necessary.”

The Alaska Control Alliance and the state Tobacco Prevention Control Program have already been carrying out that education process, she said.

Nenon said municipalities that have already passed local no-smoking laws have proven eduction is “typically all that is needed.” Anchorage has had a comprehensive smoke-free law in place for nearly nine years and the health department has never issued a citation, she said.

“If a citation were necessary at any point, there is a fine structure for the business owner laid out in the bill,” Nenon said.


Reach Kelly Sullivan at

More in News

The badge for the Kenai Police Department (Clarion file)
Walmart briefly evacuated after bomb threat

The investigation is ongoing.

Peninsula Clarion file
Merry voices to fill Kenai chamber

Historical society carolling event returns after hiatus

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
State officials urge vaccination as omicron spreads in US

Omicron was first identified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization on Nov. 26.

Alaska State Troopers logo.
1 hunter dead, another missing after boat hits rough seas off Whittier

The pair were reportedly hunting on Wednesday on Esther Island in Prince William Sound.

Kenai City Council members James Baisden (left) and Deborah Sounart (right) listen as member Teea Winger (center) speaks in support of legislation opposing government COVID-19 mandates, during a meeting of the Kenai City Council on Wednesday, in Kenai.
Kenai council declares opposition to mask mandates

The statement does not change city code or supersede federal law.

Signage indicates that face masks are required for entry to the Soldotna Public Library on March 25, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. The Soldotna City Council voted Wednesday to make mask-wearing optional in city facilities. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Masks recommended, not required in Soldotna city buildings

Council amends measure to make mask-wearing optional

Nick Begich III, seen here in this undated photo, is challenging Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, for his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives saying Alaska needs new energy in Washington D.C. (Courtesy photo / Alaskans for Nick Begich)
Nick Begich III touts fiscal conservatism in US House race

GOP candidate challenges Young’s record

Sockeye salmon. (Photo via Alaska Department of Fish and Game)
Fish and Game seeks comment on 2022 sport fish stocking plan

The Sport Fish Division plans to release approximately 7 million fish into the Alaska water systems over the next five years.

A map shows which parts of the Chugach National Forest are open to motorized winter recreation use for the 2021-2022 season. (Map courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service)
Parts of Chugach National Forest open to snowmachine use

The 2021-2022 winter motorized season will run through April 30.

Most Read