SD Puts Smokers On Ice

South Dakota smokers might want to pack extra sets of mittens and long johns when they go out on the town during the coming winter months, now that a smoking ban in bars and casinos is in effect.

Such smoking bans are hardly new; California’s has been in effect for more than 12 years. But stepping out for a smoke in January is an entirely different proposition in the Mount Rushmore state and its frigid and snowy winters.

South Dakota bar and club owners are scurrying to construct shelters and install outdoor heating for their most heavily nicotine-addicted patrons, and fear business will suffer and workers will lose jobs.

While businesses haven’t estimated how much they stand to lose, they point to dropoffs in states like Montana, where the state gambling authority has seen a 17 percent drop in gaming income after its own smoking ban was enacted.

South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds’ budget office has estimated the state could lose 15 percent to 25 percent of its video lottery profits. The state collects half of all video gaming revenue and expects to bring in about $106 million this year. In the long view, many believe the health benefits of the legislation outweigh the financial downside.

But in the meantime, business owners are trying to figure out how to accommodate their smoking winter customers. The new law bans smoking in any “enclosed indoor area under the control of a public or private employer,” which could mean smoking shelters might have to be at least partially exposed to the elements.

At the Top Hat Lounge in Sioux Falls, S.D., longtime employee Chris Vanbeek said she was thinking of a few ideas to get through a smoke-free winter – including a potential outdoor beach party with sand and smoking.

“It is much easier to smoke with gloves than mittens,” she joked.