June 1 marked six years since the Nebraska Clean Indoor Air Act went into effect, in 2009. It prohibited smoking in indoor workplaces, restaurants, offices, stores, bars, etc. Public support for the law remains high, at 86%.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reports that businesses have adjusted well, too; complaints dropped from 129 in the first seven months after the law went into effect, to 27 in 2013.
Some local businesses were a step ahead
Some North Platte businesses went smoke-free long before the law took effect. In 1997, the Airport Inn, now Lincoln Highway Diner, eliminated their smoking section when the Airport Authority established a smoke-free policy for the entire terminal.
Judy Holys and her late husband, Ed, managed the restaurant at that time. Judy noted that when they first started, the smoking section was in the front. “That was ridiculous,” said Holys, because all the customers had to walk through it. Then they moved it to the back, but the smoke still seeped throughout the restaurant. Holys did not like it, but that’s just the way it was at the time.
When the entire airport facility went smoke-free, “I was thrilled!” she said.
Not only was the atmosphere of the restaurant more pleasant, but easier to keep clean. The airport authority had to clean and paint the walls, and “that was a mess.” Holys said the majority of the customers welcomed the cleaner, smoke-free atmosphere and business did not suffer.
Many residents have smoke-free homes
Ashley Fisher (24), of North Platte, smokes, but she said she is happy with the change. “I think it’s better; I prefer non-smoking establishments,” she said.
Fisher and her husband, Alex, maintain a smoke-free home, primarily because they are concerned about the health of their three children. Ashley said she even wears a jacket when she goes outside to smoke, removing it when she comes back into the house so that her children aren’t exposed to the accumulated smoke in her clothing.
Fisher said their children already have had serious bouts with RSV and other breathing difficulties, and she is not willing to have secondhand smoke cause a flare-up.
HHS rules protect children in daycare homes
Chassidy Jenny (35) of North Platte, has a licensed day-care in her home. Recently the Nebraska HHS issued regulations prohibiting smoking indoors and in vehicles anytime client’s children are present.
“I’m honestly surprised that it hadn’t been a rule from the get-go,” Jenny said. “The rules are fantastic. It should just be a given. It may change who does daycare and who doesn’t."
She said that has even picked up a new client because the family’s former care provider’s husband smoked in the home.