Smokers fuming over ban

A cigarette sits in an ashtray next to silverware at Kelley’s Bar and Grill. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ Staff Writer

A smoker of more than 50 years, James Williams is angry about proposed legislation that would eliminate smoking in indoor workplaces, including bars and restaurants throughout the state.

He said it is another way for the government to penalize law-abiding citizens, likening anti-smoking reform to prohibition.

“It’s legal,” Williams said Tuesday from the Prince Lounge. “We can smoke and drink, and they’re coming after us.

“When I want to quit, I will. I know it’s bad for you, but that’s my prerogative.”

Williams said he would stop going to restaurants and bars if the ban is enacted.

The smoking ban breezed through the House last week and is headed for the Senate.

Randi Kingston, a waitress and bartender at Webb’s Watering Hole, estimated 95 percent of customers at the bar are smokers.

“(I think) it would affect (business) very badly. Most of our customers that come in here, they smoke,” said Kingston, 21, who smokes. “I think if you want to smoke and you’re of age, then you should be able to smoke,” she said.

Two years ago the Senate killed a House-passed ban that was similar but didn’t include bars. Opponents argued the measure was unfair to small businesses.

Clovis Mayor David Lansford has backed attempts at local smoking bans in the past.

“I think that one of the biggest hindrances to (local proposed bans) came from restaurants not supporting it. They heard complaints from their customers and they didn’t want that.

“Now that it’s out of local jurisdictions, there’s not a lot of opposition.”

Keith Worm, a morning manager at Kripple Creek Hometown Cafe, said several of the restaurant’s customers are coffee drinkers who smoke.

Though not a smoker himself, Worm said he is against the ban.

“It’s America — it’s a free country,” he said.

Thirteen New Mexico communities, including Albuquerque and Santa Fe, already have smoke-free policies.

Under the bill, smoking would be permitted near buildings — as long as it was away from doorways, windows and ventilation systems — and in designated outside smoking areas, such as patios.

“No smoking” signs would have to be posted near public entrances.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Some exemptions to a statewide ban on smoking in indoor workplaces, including bars and restaurants:
• Private homes — except when they’re used for commercial child or adult care
• Retail tobacco stores and tobacco manufacturers’ facilities
• Cigar bars
• Casinos
• Bingo parlors
• Private clubs
• Fraternal organizations
• Smoking-permitted hotel rooms
• One-person offices not commonly accessible to the public