By William Thompson: Quay County Sun
The New Mexico House of Representatives recently voted 49-12 to institute the Clean Air Act, a bill designed to prohibit smoking in all public places including restaurants but excluding bars.
The bill is now being debated in the senate; however the senate voted Thursday on a similar bill that failed to pass by six votes.
The bill must pass the senate and Governor Bill Richardson’s approval to go into affect.
Clint Harden, the state senator representing Quay County said he is opposed to the bill because he thinks a smoking ban should be decided at the local level.
“I will vote against a statewide ban and the for rights of Tucumcari, Clovis and other cities,” Harden said. “Senators that believe in local control will vote against it.”
The bill would mandate that a person charged with smoking in an un- authorized area would be fined $100.
Representative Brian Moore said he was one of the few in the house to vote against the measure.
“I think the issue should be left up to the cities,” Moore said. “I don’t smoke, myself, but I have some issues with the bill. Police and fire department officials would be tasked with enforcing the smoking ban and those people are overworked already.”
Moore owns a grocery store in Clayton. He said the bill, if passed, would inconvenience employees who smoke and even some customers.
“My employees who smoke would have to go outside more than 100 feet from the store entrance in order to smoke,” Moore said, “and even though most customers don’t smoke inside the store I don’t like the idea of personally having to tell one of my customers that they can’t smoke and they may be fined $100.”
Ross Harmon, general manager of K-Bob’s Steakhouse, said he has mixed feelings about the proposed legislation.
“Personally, it suits me fine because I’m not a smoker,” Harmon said, “but we get a lot of tourists who come in off I-40, and many of them smoke. They would have a fit.”
Susan Lease, director of the Quay County Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program, said she definitely wants the bill to pass.
“I want it to pass because smoking is contributing to high medical costs and it is hurting our children,” she said.
Yvonne Braziel, co-owner of Del’s Restaurant said she has a problem with the government deciding the issue.
“I prefer the government not make the choice,” Braziel said.
“It would be hard for me to make the switch to a completely non-smoking restaurant because I am not anti-smoking. I may contact my senator about the issue.”