Sunday, March 04, 2007

Hutchinson Mayor on the Smoking Ban

The Startribune had a LTE from Mayor Steve Cook.

Say no to amendments

As mayor of a city that recently passed a comprehensive smoke-free workplace ordinance, I find it troubling to see the amendments that have been proposed in the Freedom to Breathe Act.

The preemption amendment is especially troubling. The fact that preemption is a priority for opponents, including tobacco lobbyists, of smoke-free workplace efforts in other states should make everyone question the rationale of preemption. Local governments should have the right to pass stronger versions that match the values of their communities.

Allowing exceptions based on ventilation is flawed from a health standpoint because studies have shown that ventilation is not effective in removing all of the harmful chemicals present in secondhand smoke. Furthermore, this amendment creates added financial and resource burdens on local governments from an inspection and enforcement standpoint.

Excluding clubs would create an "unlevel playing field" between similar businesses in the same community. However, since many "private" clubs are basically open to the public, it's only a matter of time before other local establishments ask that the "members only" requirement be enforced. The result could create significant negative impact on clubs and hard feelings in communities, both unnecessary if all businesses were just treated equally.

Great letter! I could not agree more. Keep the smoking ban bill amendment free!

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