Huckabee: Smoking Law Protects Arkansans

Arkansas joined the small but growing list of states that have enacted smoke-free legislation on Friday as the Clean Indoor Air Act went into effect.

Created during the 2006 special legislative session, the new law bans smoking in all places of employment and indoor public areas, including all restaurants.

Speaking on Friday, Gov. Mike Huckabee framed the new law in the larger context of his Healthy Arkansas initiative by focusing on the health and economic benefits that a statewide smoking ban would bring citing success in other states.

"We don't let people blast music at 120 decibels; we have noise ordinances for that. We have laws protecting us … It would be irresponsible if as a government we didn't protect people from the toxic effects of smoking," Huckabee said. "Twenty-five percent of the state's population doesn't have a right to impose a deadly practice on the other 75 percent."

The governor was backed by the state's chief medical officer, Dr. Joe Thompson, and Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, director of the Center for Health Advancement, who said businesses and individuals that repeatedly violate the law will go before the state Board of Health and may be subject to civil fines up to $1,000 and criminal fines up to $500.

Employees and customers are encouraged to file complaints against their employers and customers in violation of the law by calling (800) 325-0002 or online at www.arcleanair.com.

"We're going to rely primarily on complaints filed online, mailed in or called to our toll free number to enforce the new legislation," Dillaha said. "There won't be 'puff police' patrolling the state, but we want business owners to know we're serious about the enforcement."

While Huckabee said the new smoke-free law "goes further than we've ever gone before," there are exceptions. Smoking is still allowed in bars where no one under the age of 21 is permitted and home-based businesses the public cannot enter that employ fewer than three people. Smoking will be allowed in designated smoking rooms in hotels and motels that have more than 25 rooms, so long as no more than 20 percent of the rooms are smoking rooms.

The ban also exempts nursing homes, Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Southland Greyhound Park in West Memphis and tobacco shops.

Huckabee declared July 21 through July 23 "breathe-in, dine-out days" and encouraged all Arkansas families to eat out at their favorite local restaurant in support of the Clean Indoor Air Act.