Alaska lawmakers ban workplace smoking statewide
In many places in Alaska, bars and restaurants are still filled with cigarette smoke, but soon, that won't be the case.
The Alaska Legislature passed a bill late Saturday to ban smoking in all workplaces statewide. If approved by Gov. Bill Walker, the measure will take effect on October 1.
Current law already prohibits smoking in certain workplaces across the state -- including healthcare facilities, schools, childcare facilities and public meeting rooms in government buildings. But Senate Bill 63 expands the ban to include private employers too.
The measure encompasses not just bars, restaurants and other venues -- it also includes buses, taxicabs, ferries and any other vehicle used for public transportation.
Some Alaska cities -- such as Anchorage, Juneau, Bethel, Barrow, Dillingham, Haines, Skagway, Petersburg, Klawock, Nome, Unalaska and Palmer have already passed similar legislation at the local level, which applies to more than half of the state population.
A bill to adopt a uniform, smoke-free workplace policy statewide was first introduced by Sen. Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna) in 2014, with the support from the American Cancer Society.
According to the Alaska Division of Public Health, more Alaskans die annually from the direct effects of smoking tobacco than from suicide, motor vehicle crashes, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, homicide and HIV/AIDS combined.
"We view the fundamental right to avoid the health risks of second-hand smoke and to breathe smoke-free air compels us to protect Alaska’s employees as an appropriate governmental responsibility," Micciche said in a sponsor statement about the bill, equating the ban to establishing speed limits on Alaska roads or regulating driving under the influence.
"The financial burden of caring for those that fall victim to tobacco-related illness due to second-hand smoke costs the State of Alaska tens of millions of dollars annually," Micciche added.
The bill includes a provision that would allow communities to opt out of the ban.
SB 63 is now headed to Walker's desk for a signature.
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