The Daily Courier Logo
Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
10:07 AM Thu, Nov. 15th

Initiative to ban smoking in public places wins by slim margin

Ironically, both initiatives ended up winning a majority of the vote. Proposition 200 won by a 50.26-percent-to-49.74-percent margin, while Proposition 201 had a 53.1-percent-to-46.9-percent win.

City officials earlier pointed out that – should both initiatives win a majority – the one with the most "yes" votes would be the victor. Proposition 200 had 6,343 votes in favor, while Proposition 201 had 6,213 "yes" votes. That gave the no-smoking initiative the edge by 130 votes, out of a total of 13,109 votes cast.

The results had members of the Task Force to Eliminate Smoking in the Workplace celebrating Tuesday night, while the chairman of the Citizens for Fair Non-Smoking Laws expressed his disappointment.

About 30 members of the Task Force to Eliminate Smoking in the Workplace gathered after the election at the home of Dr. Robert Matthies, the co-leader of the effort for Proposition 200. In the midst of the celebration, Matthies said he was "very grateful" for the vote of confidence for Proposition 200.

"It will make a healthier community," said Matthies, a family-practice physician. "I've seen more people die of secondhand smoke than I want to."

Throughout the campaign, Matthies and other members of the task force emphasized the health of the employees and customers who frequent restaurants and bars in Prescott. "We played it straight," Matthies said Tuesday night. "This is a health matter."

And Paul Baskin, the co-leader of the Proposition 200 effort, expressed little surprise at the outcome. He maintained that 75 percent of Prescott residents are non-smokers, and he reasoned that many of those residents would side with Proposition 200.

"I thought that the higher the (voter turnout), the better our chances," Baskin said.

Unofficial results showed that nearly 68 percent of Prescott voters cast ballots in the general election – a relatively high response for the community.

But Dave Michelson, the leader of the other initiative, Proposition 201, was surprised at the outcome. Throughout the campaign, the Citizens for Fair Non-Smoking Laws had emphasized the importance of maintaining freedom of choice – a concept that Michelson thought Prescott voters would support.

"I'm actually surprised," Michelson said after the results were in. "I thought 201 would win. I think we ran a good campaign, based on freedom of choice."

But Michelson emphasized that the vote was only 130 votes apart. "It was a very close call," he said.

Mayor Rowle Simmons also voiced surprise at the outcome of the election. "I really did think 201 would pass," Simmons said at the Yavapai County election headquarters, after the results were in. "But the voters have spoken and we have to move on."

Simmons speculated that the large population of retirees in Prescott may have helped to sway the vote toward Proposition 200. "We have a pretty large retirement community, and that may have come into play," he said.

Matthies acknowledged that retirees tend to smoke less than younger people do, and may be more sensitive to the effects of smoke. But, he said, "my hope is that young people would vote for this as well, because it's their future."

Proposition 200 prohibits smoking in all Prescott workplaces, including restaurants. Bars will have a two-year exemption before the prohibition goes into effect.

That exception opens up a question about the enforcement of the new ordinance.

City Attorney John Moffitt pointed out that the wording for Proposition 200 does not define bars. Therefore, he said, it will be up to his department to come up with an interpretation on how to deal with restaurants and bars that are together in the same building.

"200 does not have a definition of what a bar is, so for enforcement, we'll have to come up with a definition in the next week or so," Moffitt said Tuesday night.

He said he likely would write a memo to the Police Department, outlining his interpretation of the issue sometime before the law goes into effect.

Michelson, who owns The Palace on Whiskey Row, maintained that the two-year exemption should apply to all bars – even those in the same building as a restaurant. "In my opinion, a bar is a bar, whether it's in a restaurant or not," Michelson said.

Moffitt said the election results will be on the Prescott City Council agenda for canvassing at the next council meeting on Nov. 12.

Moffitt said he will analyze the ballot wording and advise the council as to when the ban will take effect.

As for enforcement of the new law, Moffitt said the city likely would approach it as it does many other similar regulations – on a complaint basis.

"We don't have the manpower to run surveillance on every restaurant and bar in city limits," Moffitt said. "Enforcement of this code, like many others, will be complaint-driven."

Contact the reporter at

cbarks@prescottaz.com