Smoking ordinance headed to council on May 3

Photo by Todd Gill
Roger’s Rec is one of about 30 bars, taverns and private clubs that would be affected by changes to Fayetteville’s smoking ordinance.

With the help of at least two aldermen, members of the Northwest Arkansas Tobacco-Free Coalition will soon get to officially make their case for a smoking ban in all of Fayetteville’s bars.

Council members Adella Gray and Matthew Petty brought forth an ordinance during Tuesday’s agenda session that would expand the city’s current public/workplace smoking ban by removing the exemption for bars.

“There’s considerable research and personal objective experience to support the adverse effect of secondhand smoke,” said Gray. “I believe that Fayetteville needs to be on the cutting-edge of legislation to control this problem.”

I believe that Fayetteville needs to be on the cutting-edge of legislation to control this problem.

— Alderwoman Adella Gray

Neither Petty, whose signature is on the agenda request form as a co-sponsor, nor any other council member present at the agenda session, chose to speak early on the issue which will see a formal discussion at the May 3 regular council meeting.

Tyler Clark, project coordinator at Northwest Arkansas Tobacco-Free Coalition, recently participated in a public discussion with members of the Fayetteville Council of Neighborhoods and Wade Ogle, who owns several bars in Fayetteville.

Clark said 120 people die each year from their own tobacco use in Fayetteville and that in order to protect the health of its workers and residents, the city needs a total ban on smoking in bars.

“To put that into perspective, homicide, suicide, worksite accidents, automobile accidents, and HIV only killed 69 people in Fayetteville last year,” said Clark. “So we’re losing twice as many people to their own tobacco smoke.”

Ogle told the group he agrees that smoking is a health hazard, but he feels the issue is more about personal rights.

“Most of these bars hold private club permits with the state ABC board which means you’re a member or an invited guest,” said Ogle. “You can simply choose for yourself as a 21-and-over adult to enter, work there, or not — just as the business owner can decide whether to allow you entry.”

We expect to hear plenty more arguments both for and against smoking in Fayetteville’s bars on May 3. We also expect the issue to be read at least three times, meaning it could be as late as June 7 before a final decision is reached.