By Abby Hancock
Channel 2 News
9:41 AM AKDT, May 8, 2012
The Anchorage Assembly is scheduled to hear public testimony on Tuesday evening about a proposed measure that would grant certain private establishments an exemption from the city's indoor smoking ban.
It began with the Fraternal Order of Eagles, a charity organization in Chugiak, which claims its membership dropped drastically after the indoor smoking ban went into effect in 2007. Member and treasurer James Stewart says the charity does a lot of good in the community, but now it's struggling to stay open.
"We've lost about 60-80 members from last year and a large portion of those were our seniors and our vets that with the winter, they just didn't renew because they're saying they're not going to come down and smoke outside when it's cold," Stewart said.
The club is hoping the Assembly approves a measure that would allow indoor smoking in a separate, contained area with proper ventilation. The ordinance was sponsored by Assembly members Debbie Ossiander and Bill Starr who represent the Chugiak-Eagle River area. According to Starr, the club is not a public place, therefore its members should be allowed to smoke inside.
"I'm not going to take away the right of a smoker that has served our country and perhaps was wounded, while they collect money to give back to our community. It seems not appropriate from a law perspective," said Starr.
Fellow Assembly member Dick Traini who represents Midtown Anchorage, calls the proposed measure a step backwards in the fight for clean air. He says the ordinance is a health concern that would impact non-smokers and employees of the establishments.
"How about the people that work there? This is going to impact their health because they may not be smokers, but for their job, they have to go and serve the industry that's smoking," said Traini.
Traini says he also worries that making exceptions to the indoor smoking rule could lead to other bars and restaurants asking to be exempt. But Starr says the ordinance would grandfather in 19 other clubs and non-profits and only those establishments would be granted an exemption.
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