Topeka passes smoking ban

Richard Kelly

Many cities and counties in the state of Kansas have smoking bans. Topeka can now be added to that list.

An ordinance that bans smoking in all public locations and establishments, excluding smoke shops, has been passed by the Topeka City Council. It is to be enacted Dec. 4.

After that point, citizens are allowed to smoke in their homes an in smoking areas at least 10 feet from the door of the business they’re at. The ban only affects public establishments.

Topeka city councilwoman Deborah Swank, who has been a supporter of the ban for two years, has seen both sides of the argument. She has seen many who favor the ban, but has also struggled with those who are opposed to the ban, mainly because of the possible harm to local businesses.

But despite many who see the ban as a hindrance on local businesses, Swank is quite positive it’s exactly the opposite.

“People are saying that the ban, in essence, is going to kill their businesses because many of the patrons are smokers,” said Swank. “But just think, if you disallow smoking, you’re opening your establishment to the 80 percent of people who didn’t go before because of the smoking.”

Jesse Volpert, a 20-year-old barista at Lola’s CafĂ© Espresso, could see this possibility for Topeka too, despite his smoking habits and how the ban will affect him.

“I sincerely doubt we’ll see a major drop in patronage, both here and at other locations across Topeka. Most places, people smoke outside anyway so I doubt business will really drop off,” said Volpert.

Swank said that there are 32 counties in the state of Kansas who already have active smoking bans and that many cities also have them, including Wichita, Emporia, Salina, Lawrence, and Manhattan. She cited evidence from Lawrence showing that business at many establishments didn’t suffer after the ban. On the contrary, some of them saw a rise in business.

The main effect the ban aims to achieve is cutting down on secondhand smoke inhalation. Swank stated that she doesn’t want to prohibit citizens from smoking, but wants to create a public environment that won’t be a health hazard to those who do not smoke.

Citizens in Topeka were in concurrence with this viewpoint, including even some smokers.

“I think in a good way this affects me. I will go to Blind Tiger, for example, and I love eating there, but I feel sick when I’m sitting there and all I can smell is smoke,” said Valerie Caviglia, senior. “I appreciate the fact no one is going to be able to smoke in there, even though sometimes I smoke too.”

Since the ban has been passed, a population of Topeka became set on reversing the ordinance. And while they have the right to do so, Swank has seen this happen before to no avail.

“Almost every city in Kansas that has a smoking ban saw a petition to reverse it. But none of them have been successful,” said Swank.

Many will continue to argue that the ban isn’t within the city council’s rights, but studies continue to show that smoking also affects those who are around it, not only those who take part in it.

“The essence of the ban is that it’s a health issue, not an issue of private property infringement,” said Swank. “It’s different from a ban on something like fast food, where it only affects the one doing the action.”