Area resident honored for her work on smoking ban; hopes coverage will broaden

By P.J. Standlee

Kyrene Corridor resident Marguerite Munkachy has led a personal crusade against smoking since she was a teenager. Now, as chairperson of the Chandler for a Healthy Smoke-Free Work Place, she hopes the city of Chandler will adopt a comprehensive ban on smoking.

Having passed a smoke-free ordinance last October, Chandler banned smoking in public areas and restaurants but excluded stand-alone bars, bowling alleys and bars in restaurants that have their own ventilation systems and are separate from dining areas.

“We would like to see a complete ordinance in place,” Munkachy said, which would include a smoking ban in places that are presently excluded in the Chandler ordinance.

“Actually, we would like to see the whole state go and not just city by city,” Munkachy said.

While growing up as a teenager in New York, Munkachy said she first became a non-smoking activist after writing an essay on the health hazards surrounding smoking. After reading her essay, she said, her father quit cold turkey.

Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Munkachy was recently recognized for her efforts in overturning a petition directed at changing Tempe’s total ban on public smoking.

Munkachy and others helped enter names signed into a database comparing petition names to registered voters in Tempe.

Results of the comparisons, according to petition-verifiers, showed widespread falsification of signatures, including what they said were signatures from felons and non-residents living as far away as El Paso, Texas, as well as instances of names being copied out of the phone book.

Anti-smoking activist Leland Fairbanks, who is president of the anti-smoking group Arizonans Concerned About Smoking, gave Munkachy a certificate of appreciation along with other politicians from around the state, including Tempe’s Mayor Neil Giuliano.

“As a doctor, I applaud people that don’t let handicaps get them down,” Fairbanks said, referring to Munkachy’s battle with MS.

“She doesn’t slow down in her work for the common man.”

Munkachy admits that her illness sometimes impedes the amount of work she can get done, but adds that she would rather focus on improving the health of others than her own limitations.

Besides working for a new smoking ordinance in Chandler, Munkachy, an ASU graduate and former elementary school teacher, serves on Chandler’s Neighborhood Advisory Committee. She also is heavily involved in the activities of her sons Eric, 17, and Stephen, 14, and keeps up with her husband, Bob.

As to her work on behalf of the anti-smoking campaign, Munkachy says none of her other responsibilities prevent her from doing her job.

“I see this not only as an important issue for me,” she says, “but one for mankind.”