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Published: Friday, 6/15/2007

Not a good 'sign'

IT'S a shame that once again bar owners and others who want to turn back Ohio's ban on smoking in public places don't understand just how out of touch they are with the prevailing sentiment across the state.

When they try to begin the process of changing Ohio's smoke-free environment, they have a tough time finding anyone who wants to sign on.

Toledo tavern owner Bill Delaney and others only needed 1,000 valid signatures to kick-start a new challenge to Ohio's smoking ban. That's how many it takes for proposed ballot language to be given to the Ohio attorney general for review.

How many did they get?


That should be highly instructive to these folks, particularly when you consider that the next step, claiming a spot on the Nov. 6 ballot, would have required Mr. Delaney and his pals to obtain 402,000 valid signatures by Aug. 8.

In the wake of their failure, opponents of the ban are now talking about pursuing an initiated statute instead, a process that requires far fewer signatures but could delay a state vote until late 2008.

We have three words for them: Give It Up.

Ohioans have already voted overwhelmingly for clean air, for bars and restaurants and other public places free of polluting, carcinogenic secondhand smoke. Those places are now healthier places in which to work, shop, and eat.

No one wants to hear any more about efforts to roll back the progress that has been made. Big tobacco and most sensible bar and restaurant owners know there's a new reality in Ohio, and it means no smoking in public places. Period.

Folks who don't like the ban, and prefer a side order of foul-smelling smoke with their main course, have the opportunity to frequent establishments in Michigan, where there is not yet a statewide smoking ban.

But that, too, may change. Hearings are under way in Lansing, where supporters of a ban make the unassailable point that this is a matter of public health, not business rights. We would expect lawmakers in the southeastern part of the state who have seen firsthand the immediate benefits of the Ohio smoking ban to be in the forefront of the current effort.

Yet the Michigan Restaurant Association and Michigan Licensed Beverage Association trot out the same old tired, discredited stuff that we heard from their counterparts here.

They talk about freedom of choice, as if smokers have some inalienable right to indulge their noxious habit to the detriment of their and others' health. They fly in the face of scientific evidence.

Ohio voters have also heard these arguments before, and they overwhelmingly rejected them.

It's time for Michigan to take the same stand for better health, and kick the smoking habit.

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