CHEYENNE — Not all of America is moving toward banning smoking indoors and out. Months after prohibiting it, Casper, Wyo., is now telling smokers that it's OK to light up in some public spaces.
The City Council voted 5-4 Tuesday to repeal part of an indoor smoking ban in effect since September. The vote lifted the ban for bars, but kept it in place for restaurants.
Bar owners had complained they were losing business to competitors in two nearby towns that allowed smoking. Repeal supporters also said it was an example of government getting too involved in civic life, citing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's efforts to ban super-sized soft drinks.
"Just like what Mayor Bloomberg has done, or tried to do, with sugared drinks. It's just not going to stop unless somebody stands up and says, 'Wait a minute,' and 'Let's use some common sense here,'" said Pat Sweeney, owner of a hotel with a bar now smoke-free because of the ban.
There have been efforts in recent years to overturn smoking bans.
In North Carolina, a legislative committee last month approved a bill that would have prevented local communities and community colleges from enacting smoking bans stricter than in state law. Health advocates said the measure would have overturned local bans on smoking in certain outdoor areas.
The measure didn't meet a key deadline and failed to advance.
Last year, voters in Springfield, Mo., had a chance to repeal a year-old smoking ban enacted there. They voted against repeal by an almost 2-to-1 margin.
Casper is a rare example of a ban — albeit a partial one — being repealed. A new crop of City Council members elected last fall made the difference. Three of the four new members voted for the changes.
"The more liberal side of our populace is trying to get too much into touchy-feely and government control of everything," said one of the new councilmen, Steve Cathey.
Proponents of amending the ordinance said the changes apply to relatively few businesses. They include only about half a dozen bars. Most of Casper's dozens of other bars are within restaurants or already prohibited smoking before the ban took effect.
Smoking now will also be allowed in nursing homes (one nursing home in town had a designated smoking area that was closed) and areas of industrial shops and auto service centers not open to the public.
The changes take effect June 28 but could be short-lived if opponents gather 2,465 valid signatures to put the matter before voters.
"It's unfortunate because a new council came in and they listened to a small group of people and didn't listen to the majority of the people," said Pam Evert, a local anti-smoking organizer.
People on both sides of the issue said they expect a successful petition drive and a hard-fought campaign to win over their fellow citizens.
"They're trying to socially engineer us," said Sweeney. "And a lot of us have had enough."