An anti-smoking group looking to revert changes to the city of Casper’s public smoking ban says it’s getting close to the number of signatures it needs for a referendum.

Keep Casper Smoke Free co-chairperson Kimberly Holloway says her group is nearing the 2,465 signatures it needs by July 17 to force a special election in August.

“We had a great table at Nic Fest – we collected over 500 signatures there,” Holloway said. “I have people spread across town, so I don’t have a solid number, but I think we’re halfway there.”

Casper's previous smoking ban, which was enacted on Sept. 1 of last year, strictly disallowed smoking in all public areas within city limits.

The revised ban, which took effect June 28, permits smoking at Casper-based taverns, lounges, bars, private clubs, healthcare facilities and at work areas. It still, however, prohibits smoking at Casper-based restaurants.

Several Casper business owners say productivity and profit margins were severely hurt when the previous ban took effect last year. Health officials say the previous ban did a better job protecting public health and safety.

City officials estimate that the special election would cost between $10,000 and $25,000.