By Mike Linn: CNJ news editor
Clovis Mayor David Lansford has thrown his support toward proposed legislation that would ban smoking in businesses and restaurants statewide, an issue that will pit health advocates against proponents of a live-and-let-live society.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Al Park, D-Albuquerque, is scheduled to be introduced Monday during a press conference in Santa Fe.
Lansford, who in the fall spearheaded a movement to ban smoking in public places in Clovis, is scheduled to give one minute of testimony in support of the proposed legislation during the press conference.
“Instead of a local ordinance being enacted here in Clovis … there’s enough communities that believe there’s enough support statewide now that individual communities don’t need to enact ordinances,” he said. “A state law would be more achievable than a bunch of local laws.”
Advocates of the legislation cite studies that link possible health problems to second-hand smoke, while critics say private business owners should be allowed to permit smoking in their establishments if they so choose.
Support for the legislation grew after Albuquerque banned smoking in public places in 2003 and Roswell followed suit in August, said Cheryl Ferguson, a spokeswoman for New Mexicans Concerned About Tobacco, a grassroots coalition with ties to the American Cancer Society.
Support grew even more, she said, after a recently released poll of 500 random state voters found that 62 percent were in favor of the measure, she said. She said 42 percent of the state has enacted similar smoke-free laws.
The legislation would exclude bars, but would restrict all smoking in eateries and business establishments, and force hotels and motels to be 75-percent smoke free, Ferguson said.
She said the group is in the process of finding a supporter in the Senate.
“I think the chances of this passing are quite good,” she said. “Feedback has been very positive. We’ve gotten a very good response from legislators. We really feel like we’re in a place now where it’s time for this to happen.”
Veteran senator Stuart Ingle is not so sure.
There are already too many restrictions on business owners, the Portales Republican said, and this issue should be left up to the proprietors not the lawmakers.
While it’s too early to specifically gauge how lawmakers would vote, Ingle said he would guess that a majority of the Senate would be against the legislation.
“Certainly the non-smokers are way, way in the vast majority … but if we’re going to get that way let’s just totally outlaw all cigarette smoking and label it as some kind of a vice like we do with so many other things,” he said. “We’ve got so many laws we can’t get passed now we can’t even see straight. I think we need to let the business owners make their own decisions on this one.”
Clovis resident Helen Harmon, a former smoker, agrees with Ingle.
“(What they’re trying to do) is like a dictatorship,” she said. “There’s enough restaurants in this town that people can go to if they don’t like smoke. They don’t have any laws against cheap perfume, after-shave lotion that will knock you under the floor … or body odor.”
Clovis resident Ardyth Elms praised the proposal and Lansford’s efforts.
“I think it’s excellent,” she said. “I have a reaction to smoke, and I don’t enjoy food if somebody next to me is smoking, or someone even in the next section over (at a restaurant). It’s non-appetizing and it’s not good for you.”
There are 10 states that have passed laws restricting smoking in public buildings, and 26 states with similar laws being proposed this year, Ferguson said.
As for Clovis, Lansford said if the legislation dies this session he will likely rekindle his efforts to pass a city ordinance that would prohibit smoking in public places.