City councilors in Casper are now one step away from making sweeping changes to a controversial city-wide ban on smoking in public places.

After 45 minutes of debate and public discussion at its regular meeting Tuesday night, Casper City Council narrowly passed the second reading of the city’s revised public indoor smoking ordinance 5-4.

Tuesday’s vote mirrored council’s first vote in April. Councilmen Keith Goodenough, Steve Cathey, Bob Hopkins, Paul Bertoglio and Daniel Sandoval voted in favor of the ban’s amended language. Mayor Kenyne Schlager and councilmen Paul Meyer, Charlie Powell and Craig Hedquist voted against the revisions.

The new ordinance, which inserts several council-suggested modifications into the language of the current ordinance, would allow smoking within Casper taverns, lounges, bars, private clubs and healthcare facilities.

The ordinance still disallows smoking within many public places, including restaurants, bingo halls, restrooms and publicly-funded buildings. Smoking would also be disallowed in restaurants with a specific bar-and-grill liquor license.

Ward II councilman Charlie Powell says the revised ban will negatively alter Casper's regional and national standing.

“It is a perceptual problem when we create places where secondhand smoke is allowed,” Powell said. “Throughout the community and throughout the nation, we will be known as a community that stepped back from a full protection of our citizens.”

New language also exists within the amended ordinance that would force so-called “smoker-friendly” businesses in Casper to post signage warning customers about smoking within the establishment’s confines. According to language in the revised ban, businesses that fail to warn customers about public smoking could face a $750 fine.

Ward I councilman Bob Hopkins says the revised ban illustrates compromise. He also says the majority of businesses in Casper will remain smoke free.

“There will not be a restaurant that you can go in and smoke,” Hopkins said. “That fact that we have allowed literally a few dozen places that to have some smoking doesn’t mean that we don’t have a smoking ban – we really do have a smoking ban, and it’s pretty comprehensive.”

In April, Ward I councilman Keith Goodenough suggested councilors add supplementary amendments to the ordinance that would protect cigar bars, pubs and wineries from smoke-free language. Additional modifications, however, were not added to the ordinance prior to its second reading Tuesday night.

The ordinance still must pass a third reading before it can be enacted with its changes. Officials with Smokefree Natrona County, a group affiliated with the American Cancer Society, say they will launch a referendum campaign if the existing ordinance is amended.

Smokefree Natrona County lobbied in favor of the current ordinance last year.

Several entrepreneurs say revenues at many Casper-based service and manufacturing businesses have been down noticeably since the city enacted its current ban.

Casper’s public indoor smoking ban has been in effect since Sept. 1. It was passed last June.

More From K2 Radio