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Tancredo receives apology after cigar complaint
February 15, 2007
WHERE THERE’S SMOKE THERE’S IRE
They’re not just blowing smoke on Capitol Hill.
Ellison spokesman says situation ‘was so blown out of proportion’
After complaints to Capitol police against Rep. Tom Tancredo over cigar smoke coming from his office became national news, freshman Rep. Keith Ellison has sent a handwritten apology to the Colorado congressman.
Tancredo told Fox News today he had not had time to read all of Ellison’s letter because he was headed to the House floor to speak on Iraq and would not be able to discuss it until returning from the funeral of Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga., who died earlier this week of cancer.
As WND reported, Ellison’s press secretary, Rick Jauert, called the Capitol superintendent when smoke began coming through the wall shared with Tancredo. Ellison approved of him making the complaint, Jauert said.
“He’s complained of the smoke before,” Jauert told The Hill.
Capitol police responded, telling Ellison’ staff that Tancredo, who has three air purifiers in his office and often relaxes with a cigar, was allowed to smoke there.
“It’s very bizarre,” Tancredo said of his neighbor’s complaint, whom he has not yet met. “Seemed to me not a good way to say hello.”
Now, Ellison has made an overture to Tancredo, apologizing that the situation got out of hand.
Ellison “apologizes for the situation” because “it was so blown out of proportion,” Carlos Espinosa, Tancredo’s press secretary, told FOX News.
Jauert took issue with the attention given the week-old incident.
“Good grief, we’re talking war and peace in a historic debate this week and people are talking about cigar smoke?” he said.
It was a “trivial little incident which resulted from the smoke permeating through the walls, which has happened a number of times,” Jauert said, adding that Ellison suffers from asthma and people in his office are “highly sensitive” to second-hand smoke.


Rep. Ellison calls the cops to snuff Tancredo’s cigar

2/14/07
By Betsy Rothstein
?
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) believes it is his right as a Muslim to be sworn into Congress with the Quran. But apparently, the freshman lawmaker doesn’t believe it’s Rep. Tom Tancredo’s (R-Colo.) right to smoke a cigar in his congressional office.
Ellison’s office called the Capitol Hill Police on Tancredo last Wednesday night as Tancredo was in his office smoking a cigar. The lawmakers have neighboring offices on the first floor of the Longworth House Office Building.
Tancredo was still stunned a day later. “It’s very bizarre,” said Tancredo, who has never met Ellison. “Seemed to me not a good way to say hello.”
And let’s face it. Calling the cops on a colleague takes the cake for the nerviest behavior so far among members of this year’s freshman class of Congress.
This is how it all went down. On Wednesday evening, around 6 p.m., Tancredo was preparing for his trip to Mississippi. And as he so often does, he was unwinding with a cigar.
Soon enough, however, a police officer walked in to check on the smoke. The officer told Tancredo that the officer came because he was required to do so and not because the officer wanted to. The officer had already told Ellison that Tancredo was permitted to smoke in his office. The visit was more a formality.
Tancredo said he would not stop smoking in his office. “Heck, no!” he said. “If he [Ellison] would have [had] the courtesy to say something I’m sure I would have been more accommodating to his wishes.”
To help keep his office free of impurities, Tancredo has three air purifiers. And he has no plans to meet Ellison anytime soon. “I’m sure we will, but I’m not going to make a point [of it],” the presidential hopeful said, adding that he supported Ellison’s right to be sworn in with the Quran.
Ellison’s press secretary, Rick Jauert, made the call to the Superintendent’s office when he noticed the smoke. “I called because the smoke was coming through the walls,” Jauert said, adding that the Superintendent’s office referred him to the Capitol Police.
Jauert said he then informed his boss what he had done. He said “fine,” Jauert said. “He’s complained of the smoke before.”


The Minnesota State Representative who authored the smoking ban bill has simutaneously authored a bill to legalize the smoking of marijuana
2/11/07
No hypocrisy there….nosiree

It reminds me of the smoking ban effort in 2005 when the smoking ban author at the capitol said he would exempt the tobacco shops. The lawmaker stated he was not concerned about the health of tobacco shop employees because they knew they were engaged in a job which allowed smoking……..but mysteriously the bar & restaurant worker didn’t know his or her employer allowed smoking?….yeah right.

Truth is stranger than fiction. Minnesota Representative Tom Huntley authored a bill to legalize smoking marijuana, while he simultaneously authors a bill to ban smoking tobacco.

The hypocrisy of liberal lawmakers knows no bounds.


Statewide smoking ban legislation passes Senate committee
February 06, 2007
T.W. Budig
One local freshman Senate Democrat found it a tough vote — another as easy as it can be.
Statewide smoking ban legislation passed the Senate Health, Housing and Family Security Committee on Monday (Feb. 5), and senators John Doll, DFL-Burnsville, and Sen. Sharon Erickson Ropes, DFL-Winona, voted on opposite sides.
“It’s an easy vote for me,” said Ropes, a registered nurse.
She argued the bill, which proponents laud as protecting workers from the dangers of second-hand cigarette smoke, levels the playing field among restaurants and bars by being statewide.
Additionally, it protects the public, she noted.
Bernadette Chlebeck, commander of an American Legion Post in Coon Rapids but speaking as a private citizen, testifies before the Senate committee on Monday. Seated next Chlebeck is Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, bill author, and Betzy Gaetz, a restaurateur from Waite Park.
Not only does the bill prohibit smoking in public places — restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, other — it extends the proposed ban to vehicles and private residences under certain circumstances.
Change carries penalties
It carries penalties, making it a misdemeanor for an owner or manager to knowingly allow smoking on their premise.
Doll, who voted with Republicans against the bill, expressed concern about taking choices out of the hands of adults.
“I’m not locked in against it,” he said, speaking after the hearing.
“Something in here,” said Doll, putting a hand on his chest, “just doesn’t feel right yet about it.” Doll spoke of the bill being further refined before hitting the Senate floor.
Republicans managed to stick only one minor amendment onto the bill, dealing with its title.
Sen. Betsy Wergin, R-Princeton, offered an amendment to provide a smoking license for businesses, the fee being based on seating.
Sen. Paul Koering, R-Fort Ripley, and Sen. Betsy Wergin, R-Princeton, listen to debate on the smoking ban bill on Monday.
Wergin rejected the idea the legislation would craft a level marketplace, pointing out that tribal casinos remain unaffected.
She also argued the ban was really a property rights issue.
But Wergin’s amendment failed.
Seeking compromise
Sen. Paul Koering, R-Fort Ripley, offered an amendment that would have walled-off smoking sections in bars and restaurants and mandated ventilation systems. “I’m just trying to have a compromise here,” said Koering.
But Koering’s attempt at amending the Freedom to Breathe Act of 2007 — the name commonly used if technically strickened — also failed.
The committee on a voice vote passed the bill.
Senate Health, Housing and Family Security Committee vote was the first committee vote this session for the bill in the Senate.
The House late last week passed its version of the smoking ban bill out of one committee.
Many speak in support and against
A wide variety of people spoke both in support and against the smoking ban bill.
Bernadette Chlebeck, commander of an American Legion Post in Coon Rapids but speaking as a private citizen, argued passage of the bill could prompt veterans who dislike second-hand smoke to visit their local veterans clubs.
Betzy Gaetz, a restaurateur from Waite Park, testified rather than hurt their business their decision to go smoke-free is making them money.
Sen. Sharon Erickson Ropes, DFL-Winona, listens to testimony in committee.
“If more businesses go to smoke-free I’ll lose some of the business I’ve gained,” she said.
But Sue Jeffers, a Minneapolis bar/restaurant owner who challenged Gov. Tim Pawlenty in the primary and is communication director for the Minnesota Tavern League, dismissed the idea of a level playing field being ushered in by the proposed bill.
“Prohibition did not work the first time and it will not work now,” she said.
There’s always a state border, a casino, and noncompliance to ensure a smoking ban will bring winners and losers, Jeffers argued.

Senate panel backs smoking ban
February 06, 2007
Mark Brunswick
A proposed ban on smoking in public places — including bars and restaurants — passed its first Senate committee Monday.
Amendments that would have allowed bar and restaurant owners to install ventilation systems or pay a license fee to allow smoking failed in the Senate Health, Housing and Family Security Committee. The bill heads now to the Business, Industry and Jobs Committee before a likely floor vote.
A House version, which passed its first committee last week, also has one more stop in committee before it could head to the floor.
The ban, long sought by antismoking advocates and headed toward likely passage, would exempt only hotel rooms, smoking shops and Indian casinos, and would eliminate a patchwork of local bans. The legislation, though, would allow for counties and municipalities to enact more stringent ordinances.
Opponents contend a statewide ban would hurt the hospitality industry and flies in the face of property and personal rights.
Sen. Paul Koering, R-Fort Ripley, proposed an amendment that would have allowed bar and restaurant owners to have separate smoking areas and require ventilation systems to be installed, an acknowledgement, he said, of the potential economic effect a ban would have on smaller operations.
Sen. Betsy Wergin, R-Princeton, raised concerns that some bars and restaurants near Indian casinos would face unfair competition because of the exemption. She proposed a statewide ban that would allow bar and restaurant owners to apply for a license for exemption, with a $5-per-seat fee to go toward health funding.
“It’s not just a public health issue, it’s a property rights issue. These people are getting their rights stomped on,” she said.
Sen. Yvonne Pretner Solon, DFL-Duluth, one of the sponsors, argued that the state pays $2.66 billion a year in health care costs from smoking.
“This is a tremendous expense for the state of Minnesota,” she said.
One person testifying in front of the committee received a near unanimous round of applause after her remarks: Rochester fourth-grader Cailyn Johnson, who spoke against the bill by putting it in child’s terms: She has the right to throw snowballs at her own home but not in school, where other students risked potential injury.


Clearing the Air provides testimony in the MN House regarding air quality, secondhand smoke, and OSHA standards
2/2/07
Especially since those test results proved secondhand smoke is 15 – 25,000 times SAFER than OSHA Standards CFR 29. It’s very odd that facts and air quality testing apparently have no place in an air quality issue.


House committee passes statewide smoking ban
Feb. 01, 2007
RACHEL E. STASSEN-BERGER
Minnesota House committee passed a comprehensive smoke ban measure today, moving the state one step closer to a full ban on smoking in all bars and restaurants.
All attempts to change the bill failed. The proposed changes ranged from banning cigarettes in Minnesota to allowing smoking in bars that have ventilation systems.
After more than two hours of debate and testimony, the measure passed 12-6. Several other House committees would still have to pass it before it would move on to a full floor vote.
An identical Senate measure has yet to begin its journey through committees.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty has said if a smoking ban passes the Legislature he would sign it into law.

Smoking surveys can yield loaded results
2/1/07
By Russ Goldstein
I have had many discussions with people for and against the recently passed city smoking ban.
Some of the supporters cite surveys as evidence that there is widespread support for the bans.
I have always been suspect of surveys. The way the questions are asked can certainly sway the results.


Smoking ban goes for round 2
14 January 2007
Anna Jauhola
The bipartisan bill calling for a statewide smoking ban in public places is facing round two at the State Legislature this session.
The Freedom to Breathe Act passed full committee in the Senate last year but was never heard in the House.
Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, author of the Senate version of the bill, said he is optimistic it will pass during this legislative session.
District 9 Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, is not sure whether the ban will pass. “I anticipate we would wait awhile,” Langseth said. He feels the smoking ban is a good idea mainly for those who work in smoking environments. He is particularly concerned for college students who mainly work in bars and restaurants that allow smoking. “Those who work there are working in it all the time,” Langseth said. However, he is “not sure how heavy the hand of the government should be.” If it comes to the point a smoking ban is introduced, Langseth said he would probably vote for it and believes the government should have a certain amount of influence in the decision.
District 9B Rep. Paul Marquardt, DFL-Dilworth, on the other hand, is not impressed with the proposed smoking ban. Though Marquardt agrees secondhand smoke is bad and many people have issues with it, he is directly opposed to the ban. “Everyone makes personal health decisions every day,” Marquardt said. He feels the public should still make that choice and that will ultimately determine if businesses go smoke-free. Marquardt is particularly concerned for the Twin Towns going smoke-free because they are in separate states. If Minnesota implements a smoking ban and North Dakota does not, there could be some financial hardships for Breckenridge establishments, he said.
Both Langseth and Marquardt have spoken with constituents and neither are surprised by the responses they heard. It’s mostly smokers who complain to Langseth and Marquardt has had a split result. Marquardt summed it up in saying, “It’s not a sure thing in rural Minnesota and there are a lot of different views.”
Dusty Mauch owns and operates Legends bar in Breckenridge. “If people wish to smoke, they should be able to smoke. If smoking is so bad, ban cigarettes,” Mauch said. Mauch believes a smoking ban would hurt bars in Breckenridge because residents can just skip across the river to Wahpeton.
“I can’t say I’m worried, but I’m concerned that it may affect some of my business. If Minnesota passes a smoking ban, North Dakota will follow behind,” Mauch added. He also believes the government shouldn’t have the right to tell someone they can’t smoke in a bar if they are of legal age.
Dibble’s bill bans smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants. A companion bill in the House is less expansive — it was amended in committee and, among other changes, does not ban smoking in bars where 50 percent of revenue comes from liquor sales.
A potential statewide smoking ban has stirred controversy. While some nonsmokers and health advocates said they are happy about it, hospitality-business owners said they fear losing revenue.

The Tavern League of Minnesota
235 Roselawn Ave East
Suite 17
Maplewood, MN 55117
For Immediate Release

Tavern League Announces Opposition to Statewide Smoking Ban

January 5, 2007
The Tavern League of Minnesota has adopted a position in opposition to a statewide smoking ban for the 2007 legislative session. The members of the league have drafted this statement:
Prohibition did not work the first time, and it’s not working now. Our business is “hospitality. ” It is our best interest to make all patrons comfortable. Modern air treatment makes this easier than ever before. The free market offers everyone choices.
Smoking bans have little to do with public health. If the issue were truly public health, banning all tobacco or air quality standards would be the subjects of legislation. Smoking bans do not hurt “big tobacco” or make people quit smoking; they hurt small business owners, our employees and customers. They divide communities and waste resources while a quarter of the population continues to smoke.
The lessons learned from the existing local prohibitions and the chaos that followed in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Bloomington is clear evidence that smoking bans are a failure. They cost jobs, wages, revenues and businesses, with no improved health benefits.
Some owners now suffering financial losses under local smoking bans mistakenly think a statewide ban would provide a “level playing field” and cause the return of some of their lost business. Unfortunately subjecting owners across the state to this economic disadvantage will not help. There will always be noncompliance, a nearby casino or a border. Smoking and non-smoking patrons will frequent establishments less often and for shorter durations.
Minnesota’s elected officials have real issues to address. A state wide smoking ban isn’t one of them.
###

While public safety is an important role of government we cannot allow an arbitrary definition of public health to create policy. Inspectors and food safety experts protect us from unseen and unknown risks that a person cannot reasonably protect ourselves from. For example, clean water, contagious diseases or bad spinach. A person can reasonably choose not to enter an establishment that offers smoking and nonsmoking choices.
Fortunately our country was built on fundamental rights, those rights being life, liberty and property. No where does the US or MN Constitution guarantee smoke free bars. With over 85% of the workplaces in Minnesota being smoke free, no one is forced to work or patronize bars or restaurants that allow smoking.
The Surgeon General stated in his report that “there is no safe level of secondhand smoke.” That doesn’t make it true. The American Cancer Society and the CA-EPA conducted air quality tests at several smoking venues which prove the Surgeon General flat out wrong. There is a big difference between smell and health hazard.
The Surgeon General’s report is not a “new study” nor is there any new science in this report. It is a review of a lot of studies done in the past, many of which have been shown to be deeply or even fatally flawed, not that it mattered. In over 700 pages there is nothing that indicates any harm will come from low levels of exposure similar to what you would find in any well ventilated bar/restaurant.

By telling consumers that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco the antismoking advocates have lost the argument. The basic rule of toxicology is: the dose makes the poison. A message stating that anything is harmful at a high dose can be lethal at a low dose is simply put, not true. We must objectively define a public health risk that requires government intervention before we ban use of a legal product.

Bad science leads to bad public policy. Unethical statistics, like those cited in the SG report and other anti smoking organizations, are often used to politically motivate enacting bad legislation. Smoking bans hurt small businesses, our employees and our customers. Out state bars and restaurants would be devastated as customers chose a casino, a border city or staying home, already proven to be true by the local bans already in place.
As the legislators consider a statewide smoking ban I hope they realize the damage caused by this type of legislation. I hope they know the liberals in the big cities think their smoking bans make their cities hip and trendy, and no one is any healthier. I hope they will realize smoking bans cause lost jobs, lost revenues and lost dreams. I hope they realize helping people to quit smoking or better yet to never start should be their ultimate goal.
I hope the legislators listen to the little guy for a change instead of well paid lobbyists.
Sue Jeffers
Stub and Herb’s Bar and Restaurant
Tavern League of MN
Communications Director
S1u2e3@aol.com

Statewide smoking ban expected in a few months
Jan. 08, 2007
TIM NELSON and RACHEL E. STASSEN-BERGER
… Opponents say political correctness is the real motivation for the bans. But they concede they’re fighting a losing battle.
“I think it’s going to happen, at least a 50-50 (restaurant) ban,” said Charles Senkler, owner of Fabulous Fern’s in St. Paul and Oakie’s Roadhouse in Oakdale.
He’s the “on-sale chairman” of the Tavern League of Minnesota and a leading opponent of the ordinance in St. Paul that helped spark smoking bans across the Twin Cities. He considers the smoking ban effort “ineffective and economically disastrous.” His organization has been lobbying for a “pre-emption” clause that would trump local smoking regulation, possibly with a statewide restaurant ban.
The total ban in St. Paul, Senkler said, has driven out owners of landmark businesses like Ron’s Bar, Easy Street West and Spanky’s. And although his Oakdale pub isn’t subject to a ban, he said the lower blood alcohol limit for driving means people are reluctant to travel where they can smoke, like Oakie’s Roadhouse.
The hospitality industry, he said, “is the state’s largest tax generator, the industry that employs the most Minnesotans and the industry that stimulates much of the state’s tourism and convention business,” and smoking bans gravely imperil it.
“I guess part of me would just like to see this done with,” he said last week. “We have so many other priorities: Our health system is broken, our education system is broken, our welfare system is broken. I just don’t understand why we’re wasting our time on this.”
Read More


If we ban smoking, what’s next?
Duluth News Tribune
December 23, 2006
I don’t smoke. I don’t like smoke. But my distaste for the habit doesn’t give me cause to have the state manage individual rights.
The new junta of Democratic legislative leaders has declared a statewide smoking ban as the top priority on their thin agenda for the upcoming legislative session.
That baffles me. How property taxes, education reform, health care reform and funding for roads and bridges do not top that list of priorities is, in a word, outrageous. Apparently the promises made during the recent campaigns have served the intended purpose and can now be forgotten.
A statewide smoking ban in Minnesota is a dangerous constitutional precedent. If the new regime wants the ban to pass, it very likely will pass. But we should at least call it what it is as we plummet further into the nanny-state formerly known as Minnesota.
America was founded on principals of freedom and the right of the individual to self-determine. Every citizen has the inalienable right to life, liberty and property — “We find these truths to be self-evident.” I, for one, believe that “inalienable” means something.
As a free society, the laws we enact must necessarily be directed toward protection of individual freedoms. The freedom to improve one’s self, the freedom to obtain and hold property, the freedom of belief, the freedom of expression, the freedom of association, etc. Our laws must protect the individual’s rights within the community. A tension exists, however, between the individual right to self-determine and our bureaucratic predisposition to control everything and everyone. Simply stated, we all want the freedom to make decisions about personal liberties, but some of us also want to make these decisions for our fellow citizens. Why? Is it because we know better? Is it because we believe only the uneducated would disagree with our enlightened position? Are we convinced that we must intervene with laws to save those who cannot or will not understand?
We are all concerned with health. In fact, we all are responsible for making healthy choices. The first law on the DFL legislative agenda is a statewide smoking ban. The real issue is much larger. The real issue is how far we are willing to let government rules erode the very foundation of our freedom. Enacting social engineering into law is dangerous. Smoking sits squarely within the crosshairs of our society’s all-knowing social engineers, well-intentioned but misguided folks who feel the need to help us because we can’t help ourselves.
What will stop the regulatory engineers from focusing their sights on the freedom to consume certain foods they consider unhealthy? What will stop them from outlawing certain expressions, like no one should be forced to sit in a public place next to someone spouting profanity or praying aloud? What will stop them from determining who can own and hold certain property like a farmer’s right to decide how and what to farm? What will stop them from legislating who we can associate with by restricting procreation based on genetics? Ask yourself, what will stop them from legislating our religious freedoms? If they decide that Islam promotes violence and mistreatment of women and therefore must not be tolerated, will that be imposed on us from above as well? What are the limits on our growing “nanny-state”?
I expect those who want to dictate our freedoms will cry out that the smoking ban is altogether different from the examples offered. Secondhand smoke obviously affects workers in bars and restaurants. Of course, no one wants to suggest that employment is voluntary. Evidence of the negative health impact of secondhand smoke has been presented as indisputable. If this is such an indisputable truth, then why does the federal government rate secondhand smoke below cell phones as a carcinogen? Why have we, as a responsible society, not simply outlawed tobacco in all its forms? If secondhand smoke is as dangerous as the social engineers claim, then why are we willing to allow children in private homes to continue to be exposed to this scourge?
I realize that this train may already be out of the station and that it seems to be picking up steam as we roll down the tracks toward the upcoming legislative session. I only ask that before we set this course we consider the impact on not only the many businesses that will be hurt, but also the dangerous precedent we set for the future of liberty.
Rep. Tom Emmer is a Republican from Delano first elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2004. He’ll serve as deputy minority leader in the upcoming 2006-07 legislative session.


Legislature likely to favor statewide smoking ban

December 11, 2006

A statewide ban on smoking in bars and restaurants looks likelier than ever.

For several years the biggest obstacle to the ban has been the Republican majority in the state House of Representatives, which was swayed by the concerns of restaurant and bar owners who said the ban would hurt their business. With Democrats set to take control of the House in January, supporters believe their time has come.

“This is definitely the year for the dialogue to happen,” said Pat McKone, president-elect of the Minnesota Smoke-Free Coalition, which includes an array of public health organizations. “We see a lot of acceptance, even from people who once opposed the idea.”

Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty has said he’d sign the ban into law. Some predict the new Legislature could pass it within weeks of the start of the session in January.

Even bar owners and other opponents are pessimistic about the chance of blocking a ban. Instead they’re focusing on limiting its scope.

The Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association is preparing a push to exempt neighborhood and rural bars that serve almost no food, saying a ban would mean economic hardship for the owners of such establishments.

Many Minnesota cities, including Minneapolis and St. Paul, ban smoking in bars and restaurants. Last month, 69 percent of voters in Mankato favored such a ban. They are also increasingly common nationwide, with 17 states now prohibiting smoking indoors in all or most public places.

Supporters point to a report earlier this year by the U.S. Surgeon General that said even brief exposure to secondhand smoke is a significant health hazard.

Some bar owners have made their establishments nonsmoking voluntarily, but say it meant at least a temporary hit to business. Dawn Eve, owner of Jammers Bluenote Ballroom in Bemidji, said she made the call after she suffered recurring lung infections and a general loss of energy during the day.

“It was really hard, and I did lose some money,” Eve said. “People I thought were my friends don’t ever come back in anymore. Smoking and drinking alcohol do go hand-in-hand with a lot of people. I stayed open, but I didn’t hardly have any customers for a while.”

But her lung infections stopped, and Eve found she needed fewer daytime naps. Customers are returning, she said, and even some smokers are saying they appreciate the new policy.

In January, Beltrami County will go smokefree. But Eve said she still will face competition from bars that allow smoking across the county line.

“A statewide ban would be a real treat,” she said.

Still, opponents of a ban in the Legislature say it should be every business owner’s decision – not the state’s.

“If this is what government is for, let’s go to the next step – why not cheeseburgers?” said Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Delano. “Big Brother has got to take care of us because we are too dumb or too lazy to care for ourselves.”


New Legislature May OK Bar-Restaurant Smoking Ban

Dec 10, 2006

A statewide ban on smoking in bars and restaurants looks more likely than ever.

For several years the biggest obstacle to the ban has been the Republican majority in the state House of Representatives, which was swayed by the concerns of restaurant and bar owners who said the ban would hurt their business. With Democrats set to take control of the House in January, supporters believe their time has come.

“This is definitely the year for the dialogue to happen,” said Pat McKone, president-elect of the Minnesota Smoke-Free Coalition, which includes an array of public health organizations. “We see a lot of acceptance, even from people who once opposed the idea.”

Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty has said he’d sign the ban into law. Some predict the new Legislature could pass it within weeks of the start of the session in January.

Even bar owners and other opponents are pessimistic about the chance of blocking a ban. Instead they’re focusing on limiting its scope.

The Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association is preparing a push to exempt neighborhood and rural bars that serve almost no food, saying a ban would mean economic hardship for the owners of such establishments.

Many Minnesota cities, including Minneapolis and St. Paul, ban smoking in bars and restaurants. Last month, 69 percent of voters in Mankato favored such a ban. They are also increasingly common nationwide, with 17 states now prohibiting smoking indoors in all or most public places.

Supporters point to a report earlier this year by the U.S. Surgeon General that said even brief exposure to secondhand smoke is a significant health hazard.

Some bar owners have made their establishments nonsmoking voluntarily, but say it meant at least a temporary hit to business. Dawn Eve, owner of Jammers Bluenote Ballroom in Bemidji, said she made the call after she suffered recurring lung infections and a general loss of energy during the day.

“It was really hard, and I did lose some money,” Eve said. “People I thought were my friends don’t ever come back in anymore. Smoking and drinking alcohol do go hand-in-hand with a lot of people. I stayed open, but I didn’t hardly have any customers for a while.”

But her lung infections stopped, and Eve found she needed fewer daytime naps. Customers are returning, she said, and even some smokers are saying they appreciate the new policy.

In January, Beltrami County will go smoke free. But Eve said she still will face competition from bars that allow smoking across the county line.

“A statewide ban would be a real treat,” she said.

Still, opponents of a ban in the Legislature say it should be every business owner’s decision — not the state’s.

“If this is what government is for, let’s go to the next step — why not cheeseburgers?” said Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Delano. “Big Brother has got to take care of us because we are too dumb or too lazy to care for ourselves.”


April 2006: MN Smoking Ban Falls In House Committee

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