Will election-year politics help smoking ban?
DENVER (AP) Bartender Lisa Nieto dumps ashtrays crammed with hundreds of cigarette butts a night and copes with colds and sinus infections her doctors blame on second-hand smoke from her customers.Their chain smoking is a reflection of my health, Nieto said at the state Capitol, where she endorsed a proposed statewide ban on smoking in bars and restaurants.Supporters unveiled the proposal Wednesday. With most state lawmakers up for re-election this year, backers said they hope legislators will bow to political pressure and enact a ban, which failed last year.Besides protecting nonsmokers, they say, its the fair thing to do for people like Nieto who have to inhale smoke as they work.This isnt just about those of us who wander into a restaurant and are inconvenienced by smoke, said Rep. Mike May, R-Parker, a co-sponsor of the bill. Its those that are there eight, 10, 12 hours a day earning a meager living as a waitress, waiter, or bartender.A similar proposal was killed last spring in the Senate when then-Minority Leader Mark Hillman, who is now state treasurer, lined up Republicans against it and a few Democrats joined them to block the proposal.Sen. John Evans of Parker, a Republican who voted with Democrats last year, is co-sponsoring the measure this year with Sen. Dan Grossman, D-Denver.Already, 17 cities and counties including Avon and Eagle County have enacted their own bans on smoking in restaurants and bars, according to the Colorado Tobacco Education & Prevention Alliance. Steamboat Springs, Eagle County and Avon passed bans after the statewide proposal failed.About 20 percent of Coloradans smoke, which is in line with the national average, according to the American Heart Association.Half of Colorados 35 state Senate seats and all 65 state House seats are up for re-election this fall, making incumbents who arent term-limited more sensitive to voter sentiment.It is going to be tough for them to oppose such a wildly popular measure, Grossman said.The proposal would still allow smoking in the smoking lounge at Denver International Airport and in cigar bars but supporters expect to be lobbied for more exemptions, including casinos and strip clubs.May said casinos want exemptions because their business depends on getting people to stay and gamble. Casinos fear that once customers walk outside to smoke, they wont be back.Im sure that everyone wants an exception. Im just waiting to see who offers the Shot Gun Willies exception, May said, referring to a famous Denver-area strip club.Last year, owners of small, neighborhood bars that dont sell food also objected to the ban, saying it would put them out of business.Vail, Colorado