Smokefree Alaska Law goes into effect October 1

Law protects over 300,000 Alaskans who couldn’t be protected by local ordinance.

Back in 1998, Bethel became the first Alaskan community to pass a smokefree ordinance. Ordinance 98-07 passed unanimously and was enacted into the Bethel Municipal Code on August 24th, 1998.

The “Smokefree Alaska” law goes into effect Monday, October 1, culminating decades of efforts to ensure workplaces and public places across the state are free from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.

The Alaska Legislature passed Senate Bill 63 last session and Governor Walker signed it into law this summer. More than 1,000 Alaska businesses offered resolutions in support of the bill on its way to passage.

As of October 1, at least 300,000 Alaskans who were not protected by local smokefree laws will be covered. Roughly half of Alaskans were previously protected from secondhand smoke at work by local comprehensive smokefree laws. The remaining unprotected large population centers were in second-class boroughs with home-rule cities who don’t have health powers to pass a local smoke-free law.

Over 70,000 Alaskans live in the “Unorganized Borough,” which is under the jurisdiction of the Alaska Legislature.

Local and statewide public health advocates will gather to celebrate the implementation of the Smokefree Alaska law at a ceremony Monday, October 1 at 2:00 p.m. at American Legion Post 15, 1550 Mystic Circle near Palmer. The American Legion is an example of an establishment covered by the new law.

Palmer passed a local smokefree ordinance, however the Legion post is outside Palmer city limits and the Mat-Su Borough doesn’t have health powers.

Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke at work are more likely to develop heart disease or lung cancer. The Smokefree Alaska Law protects employees and the public from the dangerous health effects associated with secondhand smoke. Smokefree workplace laws have been proven to reduce the incidence of heart attacks, improve pulmonary function, encourage quitting, and help prevent kids from starting.

“These regulations are based on sound science, protect the health of us all, and save us money,” said Dr. Jay Butler, State of Alaska Chief Medical Officer. “In a state that prides itself on its independence and libertarian values, this law strikes the right balance between personal freedom and personal responsibility.”

Here is what businesses need to do on or before October 1:

• Post the required no smoking or vaping signs in plain view at all major entrances of their business.

• Remove all ashtrays and other smoking receptacles.

• Kindly ask individuals smoking or vaping on the premises indoors to stop, and to step outside.