Tobacco Business in Palmer, Smoke-Free

Smokers in Palmer will have to go out for to smoke a cigarette next year. A new proposal of smoking ban in the city was approved by voters on Tuesday, according to Palmer election results, passing with 61.5 per cent of voters supporting a prohibition on smoking tobacco in public spaces. All told, 735 inhabitants voted on the regulation with 452 people voting yes, and 283 people no on the ban. Palmer, a community of around 6,000 people 40 miles north of Anchorage, has considered a smoking ban before.

In 2011, the city council voted down a law 4-3. David Cheezum, chairman at Smoke-free Palmer, testified at the hearings. While he’s disappointed the city council didn’t take the initiative, he credits the work of myriad volunteers spearheading the effort to put the proposal on the ballot.

Some small businesses, in particular bars where smoking tobacco is now allowed, fear that the ban will affect their tobacco business.

Christopher Cox, the owner of Klondike Mike’s Dance Hall in Palmer, calls the smoking ban “tragic,” and “truly unfair. Ninety-five per cent of my clients smoke tobacco.” Now, inhabitants who “don’t’ even go in my business” have dictated ordinances that directly affect his establishment, he declared.

Cox also owns the Carousel Lounge in Anchorage. He argued that when Alaska’s biggest city went smoke-free in 2007, his tobacco business lost $20,000 a year. Now, he is bracing for similar losses in Palmer. “Maybe they can lower my taxes,” he says.

Jenny Olendorff with the Alaska Smoking Control Alliance explained that she was “very excited” about the passage of the ordinance. “Everyone deserves the right to breathe smoke-free air,” she added.

“We want a generation of youngsters that are tobacco free,” and banning smoking tobacco in public workplaces is a proven strategy, she said. She also noted that investigations indicated that the financial influence on businesses over the long-term turns out to be either neutral or positive.

Cheezum also said that he’s “proud” of the community. “Palmer is going to stand out as the place that did the right thing,” he argued. But, he added, “It should not stop here. We need to make this a statewide effort,” through law passed in Juneau.