SALINA (AP) — With a tougher smoking ban slate to go into effect next month, local business owners depending on smokers to frequent their establishments continue to worry.

The Salina ordinance that is slated to go into effect in May bans smoking in almost all public buildings. The old rule banned smoking in restaurants between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.

The new ordinance is leaving owners and managers of the three Bs — bingo halls, bars and bowling alleys — concerned.

The smoking ban issue also has brought more attention to an election Tuesday for three city commissioners. Some opponents also are working to get a special election for the issue and have been collecting signatures.

Smoking ban supporters, including the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society, say concerns about losing business are often exaggerated. Strong sales tax data from U.S. cities that already have smoking bans are strong examples, they said.

Some believe as long every establishment in town is covered by the same rules, there will not be an extreme negative effect, said Howard Divelbiss, commander of the VFW Post No. 1432.

The post holds bingo games three nights a week and about 15 percent of the patrons are smokers.

But he said more people might come to the club for a meal if it were smoke-free.

“The percentage of people who do smoke is lower compared to what it was 10 years ago,” Divelbiss said. “Everyone is starting to learn that smoking isn’t good for you.”

Bear’s Bingo has about 100 players a night come in Tuesday through Sunday.

“I think they need to leave us alone,” said Karen Maholland, 47, a smoker playing bingo. “I think it’s stupid them trying to tell us we can’t smoke except in the privacy of our own home.”

Bear’s Bingo raises money for nonprofit beneficiaries that help run the games, said owner Terry Brown of Wichita. Much of the money ends up supporting youth sports.

Bear’s has tried to accommodate nonsmokers by installing a glass partition at some of its locations, creating two non-smoking rooms that are separated from the smoking area by a single doorway.

“We’ve been told the people in the back half of the nonsmoking section don’t even smell the smoke,” Miller said.

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