Bill would ban all smoking on ferries
July 3, 2008 · Updated 12:26 PM
"A little boy is the inspiration for legislation that could ban smoking on all state ferries. During the 1-year-old'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 ferries. 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 Jan. 27 that the boundaries of smoking areas on ferries are confusing, giving smokers license to light up anywhere and then plead ignorance. He said enforcement of non-smoking areas by ferry crews is spotty and inadequate.Mohs' complaints prompted Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen (D-Whidbey 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 American Cancer Society. Meg Hagemann, a Bremerton-Kitsap County Health District and Tobacco-Free Kitsap County Coalition representative, 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 banning smoking on even the longest ferry ride (about three hours from Anacortes to Sidney, B.C.) is not unreasonable.That's no longer than, say, a Seattle to Dallas flight, he said.Washington State Ferries 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 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.Ferry union officials couldn't be reached for comment.Mohs said ferry rides should be more pleasant and healthful. The ferry system should be (smoke-free) like every other form of public transportation, Mohs said, and no citizen of Washington should be subjected to the hazards of secondhand smoke."