Council: Puff Away

City Council wouldn't support smoking ban in bars


While the Boise City Council may support the idea of limiting secondhand smoke, it's not ready to support a smoking ban in Boise bars.

The ban has been proposed by SmokeFree Idaho, a group made up of members from various nonprofit health organizations around the state, which plans to bring the idea to the Council this summer.

The group hopes to follow last year's ban on smoking in bowling allies and figured Boise is the best place to kick off its campaign, said Katie Whittier, community organizer for the group.

But the Boise City Council isn't ready.

"I appreciate their efforts, and I don't think they're wrong," said Council Member Maryanne Jordan. "But this is really a legislative issue.

Her fellow council members agreed.

"[I'm] philosophically aligned with their interests," said Council Member Alan Shealy. "It's the right thing to do, but I'm not going to support a ban of smoking in bars at this juncture."

Shealy said he would be more willing to support a ban across the valley, but it would require substantial public support.

Historically, smoking issues have been dealt with by the state, which first banned smoking in restaurants, and then later imposed the same ban in bowling allies. A ban in bars may be a harder sell, since they are already limited to adults.

As the child of a smoker, Shealy said he feels strongly about limiting exposure to secondhand smoke, but said a ban in bars could have a negative economic impact on the city.

"We're heading into a soft economy," he said. "Bar owners are going to be fit to be tied if we come down too hard on them."

An ex-smoker himself, Council Member Jim Tibbs said he prefers to stay uncommitted to the ban, but he, too, is concerned about the economic impact.

"Cities have to be really careful not to dig themselves into a hole," Tibbs said.

Council Member Vern Bisterfeldt quit smoking four years ago after 53 years as a smoker. For him, it's easier to avoid places where smoking is allowed—it's a common-sense approach he advocates over any law.

SmokeFree Idaho met with Council President Dave Eberle to discuss their plans, but Eberle, an ex-smoker, said he's not ready to support the proposal.

"Ultimately, it's a good idea, but there's a long ways [to go] before we get there," he said. "[A ban] should come from the state and not the city."