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Sun, March 24

Smoking ban goes statewide

PRESCOTT-- In fairly decisive fashion Tuesday, Arizona voters followed the smoking trend that Prescott voters set three years ago.

And that means that the smoking scenario will not change in the bars and restaurants of Prescott, but businesses in a host of other communities around the state will soon face tougher smoking restrictions.

Arizona voters made several choices on smoking during Tuesday's general election, including one that will impose a statewide ban on smoking in most public places, including bars and restaurants.

According to results from the Arizona Secretary of State's office late Tuesday night -- with about 95 percent of the polls reporting -- Arizona voters:

¥ Approved the more restrictive of two smoking-in-public-places measures, Proposition 201, by about a 54-46-percent margin.

¥ Resoundingly defeated a less restrictive measure, Proposition 206, by a 58-to-42-percent margin.

¥ Approved Proposition 203, raising cigarette taxes by 80 cents, and establishing an early childhood development health care board and fund.

Dr. Robert Matthies, a strong proponent of the voter initiative that brought the smoke-free workplace measure to Prescott in 2003, said he was "grateful" Tuesday night that Arizona voters took a similar stand on smoking.

"This is what I've perceived as a health issue," said Matthies, a family-practice doctor in Prescott. "I'm grateful, because this will improve the health of people who reside in Arizona and those who visit. The bottom line is health."

However, local residents who were prominently against the Prescott measure expressed disappointment Tuesday night about the outcome of the state vote.

Andy Tobin, a spokesman for an opposing, less restrictive smoking proposition in Prescott in 2003, said he supported Proposition 206 this year. "I felt 206 was more than reasonable," he said of the proposition that would have banned smoking in most public places, with the exception of bars. "I thought 201 was an extreme measure."

Local bar and restaurant owner Dave Michelson said he also preferred Proposition 206, because it would have restored smoking in Prescott bars. "It was more of a business owners' right to choose" issue, Michelson added.

Mayor Rowle Simmons, while he also supported 206, said he was "not at all surprised" at Tuesday's results, because of the low percentage of smokers in Arizona.

On the positive side, Simmons said Proposition 201 "does level the playing field" for most bars and restaurants statewide. (The proposition does not apply to businesses on Indian reservations).

Yavapai County voters were less enthusiastic about Proposition 201 than were voters statewide. County voters approved the measure by a fairly slim 50.3-to-49.6-percent margin.

State land propositions

Two other propositions with direct local ramifications went down in defeat Tuesday, when voters narrowly defeated Proposition 106 -- a measure that would have preserved hundreds of acres of local State Trust Land that area conservation advocates have been working on for years.

Proposition 106 failed by a 51.5-to-48.5-percent margin, while the other State Land-related measure, Proposition 105, received a definitive thumbs-down from voters, at about 71-to-29-percent.

Laura Lopez, the chairman of the City of Prescott's Open Space Committee, said Tuesday night that she and other open space advocates were "highly disappointed" at the defeat of 106.

The measure would have preserved crucial parcels of land on Glassford Hill and Badger "P" Mountain, which have long been open space priorities for the community, she said.

Without help from the state, Lopez said, "it's going to be tough to purchase (the Glassford Hills and Badger Mountain property)."

Lopez noted that this year's preservation effort was just the latest in a series of similar unsuccessful efforts through the years. "Maybe the seventh try will work," she said of possible future initiative measures. "I know conservationists are not going to give up."

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