The old-Alaska mining town, famous as the finish line of the Iditarod trail and infamous for its salty pioneer history, has joined a growing number communities across the state that now ban smoking in public places. That means no lighting up in office buildings. No smoking in taxis and no cigarettes within 20 feet of softball fields.
“The biggest thing for Nome is that it makes the bars smoke free,” said Danielle Sylvester, a tobacco prevention coordinator for the Nome community center. “Other than one or two hotels, the bars were really the only place that (allowed) smoking.”
The Nome City Council voted 4-1 for the ban in May. The prohibition actually began Tuesday.
Once a tent-and-log city prospecting town, Nome is one of the largest rural hubs in the state, with a population of about 3,600 people. Under the new city rules, smoking is against the law in all enclosed public places as well as all areas within 20 feet of city buildings.
In approving the ban, the council cited the dangers of lung cancer and other illnesses linked to second-hand smoke. The law defines “public places” as schools, restaurants, stores, offices and even vehicles that are “accessible to the general public.”
Anyone who violates the smoking ban could pay a fine of up to $100 for a first offense.
Anchorage and Juneau have already passed similar smoking bans. Juneau assembly members tightened that city’s ban to outlaw smoking in taxis in 2010, according to the Juneau Empire. Meantime, a plan to go smoke-free in Palmer could reach a vote in October, the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reports.
Signs of the new rules were immediately apparent Tuesday in Nome, Sylvester said. “I saw someone walk out of the bar, smoke a cigarette and walk back in.”