Surprise may vote to ban smoking in public buildings
Surprise is the latest Valley city to enter the war against secondhand smoke.
A grass-roots anti-smoking group has filed 723 signatures with the city clerk calling for a public vote to ban smoking in public buildings. The Surprise City Council will consider the measure Dec. 13. If it fails, it will go to a public vote.
Already Mesa, Tucson, Flagstaff, Pima County and Gilbert have smoking restrictions to various degrees.
In Tempe, Arizonans Concerned About Smoking has gathered more than 12,500 signatures to bring the issue to a vote in the May general election.
Maricopa County is poised to consider the issue next year. If approved, that ban would affect all unincorporated areas of the county, including Sun City.
"Everyone is looking to everyone else for moral support," said Goodyear City Council member Sue Linney, who supports a smoking ban. "I suspect if Surprise passes their ordinance and Goodyear comes along and passes (one), that would give the others encouragement."
Goodyear will hold public meetings on the issue and the City Council will take it up next year, Linney said.
Dr. Leland Fairbanks, president of Arizonans Concerned About Smoking, said he is encouraged by the recent efforts.
Fairbanks, whose group wants smoke-free public buildings in every city and county in the state, said the strategy is to campaign city by city, county by county after the Legislature showed little interest in pressing for a statewide ban this year.
The Surprise ban would exempt freestanding bars, smoke shops and private events held in public halls, something Fairbanks disagrees with.
"Bars and sports bars are the worst places for smoke," Fairbanks said.
Sam Tsioutsiopoulos, owner of the Desert Palms Restaurant in Surprise, which has a separate room for smoking, said a smoking ban could cost him 15 percent of his business.
"That's more than my profits right now," he said.
A smoking ban would be fine with him only if it were statewide, because then customers couldn't just drive to Peoria to circumvent a Surprise ordinance, Tsioutsiopoulos said.
Two town hall meetings are planned for Surprise residents: Monday in the council chambers, 12425 W. Bell Road, Suite D-100, and Tuesday at Kingswood Elementary School, 15150 W. Mondell Road. Both meetings begin at 6:30 p.m.