No smoking on ferries?
June 25, 2008 · Updated 11:22 AM
"A little boy was the inspiration for legislation that could ban smoking on all Washington State Ferries. During the 1-year-old boy's first ferry ride, his grandfather Donald Mohs of Coupeville complained that they couldn't get away from smokers on the boat--even though smoking is supposed to be confined to the rear, outdoor portion of vessels. They were everywhere, Mohs said. Our ride was exciting at first, but we eventually had to go indoors because my grandson started coughing and choking from all the smoke. Mohs told members of the Senate Transportation Committee last Thursday that the boundaries of smoking areas on boats are confusing, giving smokers license to light up anywhere and then plead ignorance. He said enforcement of nonsmoking areas by ferry system staff is spotty and inadequate.It was Mohs' complaint that prompted Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, to introduce a bill banning smoking on state ferries entirely. We think this would make riding the ferries a more enjoyable experience for everyone, including smokers, said Debra Lacy, a spokeswoman for the American Cancer Society. Meg Hagemann of the Bremerton-Kitsap County Health District and Tobacco-Free Kitsap County Coalition also spoke in support of the bill. No one spoke against the bill, but members of the Senate Transportation Committee expressed some skepticism. Sen. Julia Patterson, D-SeaTac, warned Haugen that she might submit an amendment to ban beer and wine sales in addition to smoking.I think it's inconsistent to ban smoking, which does not affect driving, but allow the service of alcohol, Patterson said. Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, said he didn't think banning smoking on even the longest ferry ride (about three hours from Anacortes to Sidney, B.C.) was unreasonable. That's no longer than, say, a Seattle to Dallas flight, he said.State ferry system deputy director Terry McCarthy said he supports Haugen's bill because people won't have the option of saying they're confused; hopefully, there will be enough peer group pressure to keep people from smoking.But McCarthy warned that there might be some frustrated ferry workers who would also be banned from smoking for periods up to 12 hours, the length of a long shift on a boat.Mohs said he's working to make ferry rides more pleasant and more healthful.The ferry system should be like every other form of public transportation (smoke-free), Mohs said, and no citizen of Washington state should be subjected to the hazards of secondhand smoke."