Four years after its first introduction, 2018 may finally be the year that Soldotna Sen. Peter Micciche’s smoke-free workplace bill clears the Legislature.
Senate Bill 63, which is Micciche’s third smoke-free workplace bill since he took office in 2013, is poised to reach the House floor this session and already has support of half of the chamber’s 40 members. The bill was heard in the House Judiciary Committee on Monday to take public testimony, and the bill is expected to advance on Wednesday after the committee considers amendments.
The legislation would ban smoking in nearly all indoor workplaces, including bars and taxicabs.
“This bill is designed for where your choice to smoke, which is not impeded in any way by this bill, impacts someone’s right to breath clean air while at work,” Micciche said.
Earlier efforts on the bill went up in smoke, with the blame often directed at House Republican leadership, which included many well-known heavy smokers. Today, Senate Bill 63 has 20 co-sponsors in the House from a broad political spectrum. That’s just one member short of a majority of the chamber and all but guaranteeing its passage. Senate Bill 63 passed the Senate on a 15-5 vote in 2017.
The path to here
The legislation has been a key issue for Micciche since he joined the Legislature after the 2012 elections. Micciche, during testimony on Monday, explained why the issue matters so much to him.
“I struggled with it. It took me quite some time,” he said. “I agree with a lot of you on the liberty issue, but the reality of it is there are certain aspects of public safety–especially the number one cause of avoidable death and disease in this state–that I think employees should be protected against. … The little letter after my name, it’s a party that often struggles with laws such as this, but I don’t know how many more non-smoking Alaskans have to suffer unnecessarily before we decide to try to do something about that.”
Micciche’s also been helped by committed lobbying efforts by public health and anti-smoking groups to slowly turn the tide of opinion in Juneau.
The health impacts of second-hand smoke have also earned the bill support of legislators who’ve otherwise been ardent opponents of government regulation, including Rep. Lora Reinbold. Reinbold, who has a seat on the House Judiciary Committee, said she supported the bill, and said she only wished there was a way to protect children in smoking households.
Here’s what the bill would do
- Bans indoor smoking in most workplaces, including office restaurants, bars, hotels and office buildings; entertainment venues and sports arenas; public transportation including taxicabs (including Ubers and Lyft); both public and private schools; and at any health care facilities.
- Bans smoking outdoors when it’s within 10 feet of a playground while children are present; outdoor seating at a venue or stadium; at a health care facility that has declared its entire grounds smoke-free; within 10 feet of the entrance of a bar and within 20 feet of the entrances and air intakes of other buildings.
- Smoking indoors is permitted in a private club that’s not licensed to serve alcohol, as long as the owner or operator specifically allows it, and the club was operating before Jan. 1, 2017.
- Indoor smoking is still allowed inside private residences.
- There’s no active enforcement of the ban included in the bill, meaning all enforcement action would be based on a complaint system.