A group of Davis County students wants a pledge that the 2002 Winter Games will be smoke-free, but Olympic organizers say its too soon to make any promises.
Two groups organized by the Davis County Health Department, the Kids Involved in Discouraging Smoking and the Smoke-Free Class of 2000, want tobacco banned at the two-week event.Health department officials fear Utah's strict law banning smoking in public buildings could be relaxed during the Olympics to accommodate foreign visitors used to smoking wherever they like.
A pledge now to stay smoke-free would commit Olympic organizers to setting a good example for the rest of the world, said Kevin Condra, Davis County Health Department director of health promotions.
"We have a prime opportunity," Condra said. "Utah has a long tradition and history of being a healthy state. We ought to (use the Games) to advocate the healthy lifestyle that most Utahns live."
Condra said he's not surprised organizers are hesitant. "Common sense tells me they want to paint a welcoming message to the international community. But my fear as a public health professional is that they'll change the law."
The Salt Lake Organizing Committee isn't asking for a change in the state's anti-smoking law, spokesman Mike Korologos said. But organizers may welcome an effort to make it easier for smokers to light up.
"I wouldn't be surprised if we would, if it would enhance the visitors to have a smoking area," Korologos said. "We do want the visitors to have a good experience here."
Whether Utah's Games are smoke-free or not is up to the International Olympic Committee, he said. "The IOC is our boss. They own the rings. They own the Games."
Kelly Flint, legal counsel for the organizing committee, said there's nothing about smoking in the city's agreement with the IOC, or in the IOC charter. "We warned them of the (Utah) law," Flint said.
The IOC does not seek tobacco companies as international sponsors of the Olympics, and the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta has not signed any tobacco companies as national or local sponsors.
Smoke-free facilities have been available at the Olympics since the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary, Canada. Smokers - especially members of the foreign press corps - have grumbled about the tough laws in the United States.
The Davis County students came up with the idea of a smoke-free Winter Games after the World Health Organization announced a new campaign, "Sports and the Arts Without Tobacco."
The campaign is aimed at getting all sports and cultural events to sever financial ties with the tobacco industry.