PUBLISHED: 4:20 PM on Wednesday, October 17, 2007
SEARHC applauds City of Klawock clean air law
KLAWOCK - The SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium congratulates Klawock residents for passing the City of Klawock Smokefree Air Act of 2007 during the municipal election on Tuesday, Oct. 2. The comprehensive clean air ordinance passed 116-83 when the election was certified on Oct. 9, and the new law will take effect on Saturday, Dec. 8 (60 days after the election's certification).

The new law prohibits smoking in public places and places of employment, including bars, health care facilities, businesses, schools, theaters, museums, private clubs, restaurants, service lines, shopping malls, sports arenas, bingo halls, hotels/motels, city buildings, child care facilities, and all other public indoor or enclosed facilities. It also provides buffer zones for windows, doorways and ventilation system intakes. The only exceptions are for private residences, private clubs with no employees and designated smoking rooms at hotels/motels (no more than 20 percent of the rooms of a hotel/motel may be designated as smoking rooms).

The law also allows fines of $250 for a first offense, $300 for a second offense within one year (a 12-month period), and $500 for each additional violation within a year. Businesses that violate the no-smoking laws can be subject to having their business licenses or permits suspended or revoked. Klawock joins Sitka and Juneau as the only Southeast Alaska communities with local clean air laws. There now are 26 communities in Alaska with clean air laws, ranging in size from the cities of Anchorage and Fairbanks to small villages like Ekwok, Koliganak and Chevak.

"I would like to applaud the community of Klawock for passing a comprehensive smoke free ordinance," said SEARHC Tobacco Policy Coordinator Wilbur Brown, who also serves as co-chair of the Alaska Tobacco Control Alliance. "This ordinance will go a long way toward protecting children, adults and our elders from the dangers of secondhand smoke. In all my visits to the community, it has always impressed me the dedication the community has in doing the right things for the community and youth."

The Findings and Intent section of the ordinance lists references to more than a dozen studies about the health consequences of smoking and secondhand smoke before the Klawock City Council concludes, "The smoking of tobacco is a form of air pollution, a positive danger to health, and a material public nuisance. Accordingly, the Klawock City Council finds and declares that the purposes of this ordinance are (1) to protect the public health and welfare by prohibiting smoking in public places and places of employment; and (2) to guarantee the right of nonsmokers to breathe smokefree air, and to recognize that the need to breathe smokefree air shall have priority over the desire to smoke."

"Research shows that rural Alaska has more smokers per capita than urban Alaska or the rest of the United States," said Cindy Gamble, Clinic Administrator for the SEARHC Alicia Roberts Medical Center in Klawock. "The leadership and voting community members in Klawock have shown the world their commitment to the health and well-being of their community members by the passage of the clean air ordinance."

Several research studies have shown that the two most effective ways to prevent youth smoking are taxation and clean indoor air laws, Brown said. Some members of the Klawock City Council are smokers, but they recognized the health benefits of putting a clean air law on the ballot. He said more communities should consider clean air ordinances as a way to keep youth from smoking.

Even before the new law passed, several businesses in Klawock and nearby Craig (which isn't covered by Klawock's ordinance) declared themselves smoke-free.

"Klawock has shown great leadership in protecting the health of the community," said Andrea Thomas, SEARHC Tobacco Grant Manager. "A person's health and vitality improves with the guarantee of clean indoor air in all public places. SEARHC is here to support those who want to quit smoking for better health."

SEARHC provides several types of tobacco cessation services for residents of Prince of Wales Island. Women ages 30-64 can call WISEWOMAN health educator Brenda Isaacs at 755-4983. People interested in joining a tobacco quit support group can call Health Educator Deniese Weyhmiller at 755-4925 (new groups start up every three months). All other POW residents can call the SEARHC Tobacco Quit Line in Sitka toll-free at 1-888-966-8875. Also, the Alaska Tobacco Quit Line is open and toll-free 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-888-842-QUIT (842-7848).