No more smoking in Arkansas, Colorado truck stops

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Arkansas and Colorado are the latest states to restrict smoking in enclosed public places, including truck stops, joining a growing number of states concerned about the effects of secondhand smoke.

The Colorado act, which took effect July 1, prohibits smoking in almost all indoor areas, including most places of employment, food service establishments and bars. The Arkansas act, which took effect July 21, prohibits smoking in most public places and workplaces with three or more employees, except establishments open only to people 21 and over. Both laws apply to truck stops.

Seventy-five percent of the people in Arkansas don’t smoke, said state Rep. Sid Rosenbaum, who co-sponsored the bill in that state. “Smoking in the United States, from what I’ve seen, is actually on the decrease,” he said. A study of one Montana city showed a dramatic decrease in heart attacks after a no-smoking ordinance was passed, Rosenbaum said. The law won’t hurt truck stops, restaurants and bars, he said; some report increased business because they can free up smoking tables for other customers.

John Ponczoch, director of restaurant operations for Petro Stopping Centers, disagrees. Business at Petro locations along the borders, such as the Petro in West Memphis, Ark., certainly will be affected, Ponczoch said: “If the individual wants to smoke, he’s going to go to a smoking facility.” In a fall 2001 survey, 40 percent of customers at Petro’s Iron Skillet restaurant said they smoked, and 60 percent said they would avoid a smoke-free restaurant. Only 18 percent said they preferred a smoke-free restaurant.

Statewide smoking bans are easier to handle than city ordinances, said David McClure, director of marketing for Petro Stopping Centers. When Laramie, Wyo., passed a no-smoking law, customers of the local Petro simply started going to the truck stop at the next exit, McClure said.

Owner-operator Conway Sowell is the type of customer whom truck stops worry about losing. He said that whenever he encounters places where smoking is prohibited, he finds another truck stop where he can smoke.

Enforcement of the Arkansas law will not be heavy-handed, Rosenbaum said: “It’s almost going to be a three-strikes-you’re-out deal.” On the first two complaints about a particular facility, the state health department will send the business a warning, and on the third complaint, the business will be fined $100 to $500, Rosenbaum said. In Colorado, the fine for a first violation is not to exceed $200, the fine for a second violation can be as much as $300, and subsequent violations can be as much as $500.

Shawn Hoover of Rockford, Ill., said he has encountered no-smoking regulations in Utah and Georgia and doesn’t like them, but he doesn’t avoid those places, either: “I just smoke outside.” In his experience, the regulations usually are strictly enforced because the establishments don’t want to get fined, Hoover said.

Jon Easterling, an owner-operator from Brandon, Miss., said such laws are upheld mainly through smokers’ politeness: “It’s a courtesy thing. There’s not, like, a smoking sheriff anywhere.” Although he smokes himself, Easterling said cigarettes should be banned completely: “There’s nothing good about smoking.”

Smoking restrictions can be found in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to a 2005 American Lung Association report. These laws range from limiting smoking to designated areas in government buildings to prohibiting smoking in virtually all public places and workplaces.

Fourteen states — Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington — prohibit smoking in enclosed public places or enclosed places of employment. This typically includes all private workplaces, restaurants and bars.

Florida prohibits smoking in all private workplaces and restaurants, and Idaho and Utah prohibit smoking in all restaurants. Arizona and Ohio are looking to put statewide smoking bans before voters on the November ballots. In West Virginia, smoke-free air is regulated by county boards of health. As of January 2006, all but one of the state’s 55 counties had smoking regulations of varying strength.