Nevada Groups Clash on Smoking Ban Plan

Judge to decide if issue will be on November ballot

RENO, Nev. -- A coalition of health advocates kicked off a campaign Thursday to protect children from secondhand smoke, bracing for a fight with the state's tourism industry, according to a report in the Reno Gazette-Journal. The Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act, which would be on the November ballot, would ban smoking in restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, malls, schools and day-care centers.

Organizers, including the American Heart and Lung associations and the American Cancer Society, said the law would protect children from secondhand smoke [image-nocss] by limiting tobacco use to adult-only venues. Casino floors and bars that don't serve food would be exempt from the ban.

"Secondhand smoke is a health risk," Michael Hackett, a political consultant coordinating the campaign, told the Gazette-Journal. "It's no longer considered a nuisance or an inconvenience. It is a serious health risk."

But the tourism industry is fighting the initiative on several fronts, suing to keep it off the ballot and crafting its own anti-smoking petition to compete with the Clean Indoor Air Act. "We think ours accomplishes two different things: It protects children against secondhand smoke and continues to ensure our livelihood as a tourist economy," said Lee Haney, spokeswoman for the Responsibly Protect Nevadans from Secondhand Smoke Act.

The petition backed by the tourism industry would allow smoking in casino restaurants and bars, in slot-machine areas of grocery stores and convenience stores, and require restaurants to make smoking areas off-limits to children.

Both sides are awaiting a decision by Carson City District Judge Bill Maddox on a lawsuit that seeks to keep the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act off of the ballot. The lawsuit was filed a year ago by Herbst Gaming, Nevada Tavern Owners Association, United Coin Co. and the Nevada Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association. "We're in a holding pattern waiting for that," Haney said. "We haven't received a decision and the election is right around the corner."

Efforts to control secondhand smoke in public places have sprung up across the country. Sixteen states have laws restricting indoor smoking, as do 2,100 cities. Most recently, Calabasas, Calif., enacted the nation's most stringent smoking restriction, banning it in virtually all public places indoors and outdoors.