A Gillette group is ramping up efforts to ban smoking in all indoor public spaces and businesses in Campbell County.
Eventually, the Substance Abuse Advisory Council may approach the Gillette City Council with a proposed ordinance for smoke-free public places.
On Wednesday evening, members of the council asked Campbell County school trustees to sign a resolution supporting such a prohibition, noting that its support may have a big impact on the issue.
The resolution calls for all owners and operators of indoor public spaces and places of employment to prohibit the smoking of tobacco the smoking of tobacco in any form within those indoor places to protect the health of workers, patrons or citizens. That includes bars and restaurants in Campbell County.
Trustees indicated they will address the issue in their Aug. 28 public meeting.
“We’re pursuing a smoke-free ordinance in public places,” said Spring Wilkins, a member of the council. “We want to mobilize our community leaders and this is a room full of community leaders.”
Wilkins said the group is seeking similar support from the Campbell County Public Health Board. It already has gotten formal approval from the local chapter of the Wyoming Nurses Association.
But the school board is the first large group the advisory council has approached. It soon will make the same request of the Campbell County Memorial Hospital trustees.
“We’re asking for you, the school board, to be that first person, the first to approve this,” added Keith Howard of the advisory council.
If the group doesn’t receive support from the school, hospital and county boards, it likely won’t approach the City Council with a proposal. But if other boards and groups support the measure, the City Council likely will be approached after upcoming elections, Wilkins said.
“You guys represent over 8,000 children in the community and all your staff. It would make a huge, huge statement in this,” Howard pointed out.
Campbell County, as of 2010, had one of the highest youth smoking rates in the state, Howard pointed out.
More lives are lost from smoking and second-hand smoke in Wyoming each year than are lost by murders, motor vehicle accidents and suicides combined, Howard added.
Also speaking to trustees from the advisory council were Kellie Furman and Kris Blair.
Until a decade ago, smoking was allowed in school facilities, noted trustee chairman David Fall.
“If we sign this, we’re kind of telling the City Council its business, not that I’m opposed to this,” he added.
Trustee Joe Lawrence, a radiologist, said he’d rather see a smoking ban, if the council would do so. “I’m inclined to say I’d encourage the City Council to do this.”
A member of the advisory council added that she had been called a Nazi and likened to Hitler by a woman when the issue surfaced a few months ago.
“People are going to react regardless,” Wilkins said. “We’ve had ‘flaming, upset people.”
Similar bans are in place in Laramie and Cheyenne. The Casper City Council also has banned smoking in businesses and public places, but opponents are hoping to force a voting referendum to overturn the measure.
“We’re absolutely expecting opposition, especially in Wyoming,” Wilkins said Thursday. “In Wyoming, people feel it’s not government’s place to tell a business owner how to run their own place.” The same feeling applies to individuals, she added.
But the advisory council feels they have to take this step to protect workers and citizens from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.
“As strongly as the opponents feel, we’ll also get supporters,” she added.
School trustees also could face criticism if they approve the resolution, Wilkins told them.
“If it makes you feel better, I was called the ‘tobacco Nazi’ before I became the ‘pop Nazi,” Fall responded, recalling some of the community’s reaction when first smoking was banned and then soda pop was banned from school vending machines in the schools.
Gillette Mayor Tom Murphy later appeared before the trustees to discuss water conservation efforts in the community. Trustees asked Murphy about his view of the smoking resolution.
“Would you take this wrong?” Fall asked. “Would you see us, as a board, as trying to tell them their business?”
Murphy said if such a proposal came to the council, it would be well received.
“I don’t know if the council will act on it,” he added. “I think common sense and education has worked well. I honestly believe all smokers know they need to quit.
“I feel, by and large, we as a community, have dealt with that issue. But we would listen.”
Trustee Lisa Durgin told Murphy “we want to possibly support it, but we don’t want to step on toes.”
“I’m confident that I would support that resolution” if it came to the council, Murphy said.
The resolution the advisory council has asked school trustees to approve
“The Campbell County School District Board of Trustees hereby urges all owners and operators of indoor public spaces and places of employment to prohibit the smoking of tobacco in any form within those indoor spaces in order to protect the health of workers, patrons or citizens on the premises, and
“The Campbell County School District Board of Trustees further urges all appropriate elected legislative bodies, including the Gillette City Council and the Wyoming State Legislature, to enact legislation to eliminate exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke in all indoor public spaces and places of employment.”