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Mesquite, NV’s Smoke-Free Ballot Question For The 2020 Ballot  

When the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act (NCIAA) went into effect on Dec. 8, 2006, it banned smoking in most public places and indoor places of employment but not all.  Non-smoking areas include:

  • Public and private school buildings and on public and private school grounds,
  • Child care facilities with five or more children,
  • All areas of grocery stores, convenience stores, and drug stores (including gaming areas),
  • All indoor areas within restaurants, including those in casinos or gaming establishments,
  • Bars, taverns, and saloons that allow minors under the age of 21 to enter,
  • Shopping malls and retail establishments
  • Video arcades,
  • Government buildings and public places,
  • Movie theaters.

Smoking is allowed in:

  • Gaming areas of casinos which restrict loitering by minors under 21-years of age,
  • Completely enclosed stand-alone bars, taverns, and saloons which prohibits minors under 21 years of age from entering,
  • Strip clubs or brothels,
  • Retail tobacco stores,
  • Areas of convention facilities during tobacco-related trade shows that are closed to the public,
  • Private residences, including those used as an office workplace except if it is used as child care or health care facility.

In 2012 the American Lung Association sponsored a local effort to encourage the Mesquite City Council to pass an ordinance to ban smoking completely.

In October 2012, Ferdinand Toval,  then the Mesquite community organizer for the American Lung Association, spoke to the Mayor and City Council. He said that the local organization collected 3,427 signature cards supporting a smoke-free city-wide ordinance. Of those 2,360 were residents, while 1,067 were visitors supporting the cause. Only, 3,203 people voted in the last general election, he added. That meant that a petition with only 481 (15%) of the last voter population could put the issue on the 2016 general election. The City Council refused to act, and the effort died.

This year members of The Smoke Free Mesquite Coalition addressed to the Mayor and City Council on the dangers of smoking.  Chief among the speakers was Mira Azzarella, a supervisor for the Southern Nevada Health District. On February 27, Azzarella told the Mayor and Council that researchers studied 5,619,569 Emergency Department (ED) visits in Mesquite over five-years. Their work showed local health savings of $ 13.3 million over five years ($2.6 million annually) could be achieved under a complete smoking ban.

In anticipation of a petition for a 2018 vote on an indoor ban Mayor Al Litman, through City Manager, Andy Barton asked the city staff to prepare a financial impact statement. The impact statement went to the City Council on June 13.

The staff told the Mayor and City Council that the initiative could result in a loss of ($3,675,116) or a maximum gain of $3,675,116 in revenue. That is consistent with the assertion that nobody knows the impact of the Mesquite Clean Air Initiative city revenue. The staff did the city might employ someone to police the added non-smoking areas, and there would be a cost to place the initiative on the ballot.  They determined that saving $13.3 million over five years ($2.6 million annually) in health savings was out of scope.  The Council voted 5-0 to accept the study.

On June 21st, the Smoke Free Coalition did submit a petition with 2,271 Mesquite resident signatures for the City of Mesquite to place a Clean Indoor Air Ordinance on the 2018 ballot. Local Casino owners along with a couple of smoking supporters went to court to block the initiative.

On June 26th, Clark County District Judge William Kephart granted a restraining order and preliminary injunction against the coalition. Arguably the Judge felt that the petition was too vague and not focused enough. Assuming no appeal or an overturn of the ruling, the issue is dead for now.

Non-smoking advocates now have a clear shot for an indoor smoking ban for the 2020 ballot.  The petition supporters only need signatures from 15% of those voting in November.  If all 10,272 currently registered Mesquite voters go to the polls, only 1,541 (15%) signatures are needed.  If past is prologue, the turnout will be between 75 and 80% (8,218).  At 80% a petition would need 1,233 registered voter signatures.

The signature bar is higher now than had the issue be put on the 2016 or the 2018 ballot. Nonetheless, earlier surveys and petition work suggests that enough voters want the issue on the ballot for a 2020 vote.

The 2020 initiative group can thank the Mayor, the City Manager, city employees and the City Council for officially affirming that they do not know if the city will gain or lose revenue if the initiative passes.

They can also thank Judge Kephart for insisting that ambiguity is removed from any clean air petition. Thus, the participants in the 2020 initiative can focus on cleaning the air of:

  • Gaming areas of casinos which restrict loitering by minors under 21-years of age
  • Enclosed stand-alone bars, taverns, and saloons which prohibits minors under 21 years of age from entering.

To include retail tobacco stores and private residents with an office workplace would be highly problematic and likely limit participation.

About Author

Michael McGreer Mesquite, Nevada
Dr. Michael Manford McGreer is managing editor of Nevada-today.com and writes on issues that impact public policy.

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