Alaska Gov. Bill Walker signs bill banning indoor smoking

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker signs bill banning indoor smoking

Effective Oct. 1, ban mirrors similar regulations approved by Bethel, Juneau, Anchorage

Starting Oct. 1, smokers must take it outside.

In a Tuesday ceremony at Anchorage’s Lucky Wishbone restaurant, Gov. Bill Walker signed Senate Bill 63, a statewide ban on indoor public smoking that mirrors local laws in Bethel, Juneau, Anchorage and other Alaska cities.

According to information provided to the Alaska Legislature earlier this year, about half of Alaskans already live in locations that prohibit indoor public smoking. SB 63 extends the ban to the rest of the state’s residents.

“I’ve never had a more interesting gathering at a bill signing,” Walker said to the dozens of people who were assembled to watch him put pen to paper.

“It’s a very momentous bill,” he said.

The ban covers tobacco and marijuana smoking as well as e-cigarette use in public spaces such as bars, restaurants, stores, taxis and buses.

Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna and the bill’s prime sponsor, repeatedly referred to it as the “take it outside act” when discussing it during Legislative sessions.

Walker said he chose the Lucky Wishbone for the precedent it set in April 1990, when it became the first restaurant in Anchorage to go fully non-smoking.

At the time, the decision even divided owners George and Peggy Brown, who had opened the restaurant in 1955.

Peggy opposed the move, but she gave George 60 days to prove it could work. If business declined too much, the ban would go away.

As Walker told the audience Tuesday, it did decline — and fairly significantly.

That changed when George ran an ad in the Anchorage Times about the ban. The next day, the line was around the block, Walker recalled.

“Young families started coming in, and people felt secure in their breathing and not having to tolerate the smoke of others,” Pat Heller, the Browns’ daughter, said during the ceremony.

George and Peggy have since died, but the ban has stayed in place since 1990.

“It was a very positive move, and we thank my mom and dad, and thank you governor, senator, and all of you who worked so hard on this. It will be a very positive thing for the state of Alaska,” Heller said.

It took six years for Micciche to bring it to signing day. The bill was hotly opposed, particularly by Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, who blocked its advance for four of those six years.

“In six years, it was easy — piece of cake,” Micciche joked. “It just took us some time to wear them out.”

LeDoux did win some concessions before the bill left the Legislature. Most importantly, the ban includes an opt-out clause: A community can allow smoking in bars and restaurants if approved by a vote of the community’s residents.

It also allows e-cigarette stores and marijuana stores to allow on-site smoking if they have separate ventilation systems for smoking rooms.

Micciche said the bill isn’t “just the heavy hand of government … slamming down” but is about the health of workers who might otherwise be required to work in smoky environments.

Micciche held his daughter Stella as he spoke, and briefly bounced her on his hip.

“It’s for the future,” he said.


• Contact reporter James Brooks at jbrooks@juneauempire.com or 523-2258.


More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of April 8

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Friday, April 12, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Thursday, April 11, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

The sky and mountains are reflected in the water on April 5, 2012, at the Kootznoowoo Wilderness in the Tongass National Forest’s Admiralty Island National Monument. Conservation organizations bought some private land and transferred it to the U.S. Forest Service, resulting in an incremental expansion of the Kootznoowoo Wilderness and protection of habitat important to salmon and wildlife. (Photo by Don MacDougall/U.S. Forest Service)
Conservation groups’ purchase preserves additional land in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest

A designated wilderness area in Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the largest… Continue reading

A welcome sign is shown Sept. 22, 2021, in Tok. President Joe Biden won Alaska’s nominating contest on Saturday. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Biden wins more delegates in Alaska and Wyoming as he heads toward Democratic nomination

President Joe Biden nudged further ahead in the Democratic nomination for reelection… Continue reading

Juneau Assembly members and other visitors examine a meeting room formerly used by the nine-member Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development on Monday, April 8, which is about 25% larger than the Assembly Chambers at City Hall. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Of three possible new City Hall buildings, one stands out — but plenty of proposed uses for other two

Michael J. Burns Building eyed as city HQ; childcare, animal shelter among options at school sites.

Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, speaks to members of the Senate majority caucus’ leadership group on Friday. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Schools, university and projects across Alaska are set to receive money from new budget bill

Alaska Senate sends draft capital budget to House as work continues on a state spending plan

The Boney Courthouse in downtown Anchorage, across the street from the larger Nesbett Courthouse, holds the Alaska Supreme Court chambers. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska judge strikes down state’s cash payments to families using correspondence school programs

Decision will become a ‘hot-button legislative item’ in final weeks of session, lawmakers say.

A statue of William Henry Seward stands outside the Dimond Courthouse in downtown Juneau. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Juneau man convicted of sexual abuse of 15-year-old girl more than four years after incidents occur

JPD: Randy James Willard, 39, sent explicit videos to and engaged in sexual contact with victim.

Most Read