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Published: Sunday, 7/27/2008

No smoking exemptions

DESPITE the overwhelming vote in 2006 to ban smoking in public places in Ohio, there is a diehard movement afoot to water down that law by exempting some bars and private clubs.

For any legislator who might be tempted to ignore the will of the voters, we have three words of advice: Forget about it.

Contrary to the mewling of the Buckeye Liquor Permit Holders Association, this important public health question has been settled - in unmistakable fashion.

Voters in the 2006 general election showed great discernment in defeating the tobacco industry's bogus "smoke less" issue by more than 1 million votes while handily approving the foundation for the broad "smoke free" statute we have today.

There was no mistake, and no confusion. Ohioans wanted to be free of the tyranny of secondhand smoke, and nothing has changed.

Moreover, other states, including Michigan and Pennsylvania, are moving in the same direction. Now that the smoking menace is on the run nationwide, from New York to California, it doesn't make sense to reverse course.

Over the past two years, several bills have been introduced in the General Assembly by Republican legislators to provide exemptions for private clubs, family-owned taverns, and even theaters.

None of these measures have gone anywhere, and for good reason. After initially - and unwisely - toying with the idea of exemptions, Gov. Ted Strickland considers the issue closed. And he's right. The voters have spoken.

Bar owners frequently complain that they've lost business due to the smoking ban and that should come as no surprise to an industry that deals in the twin vices of smoking and drinking. But if business is as bad as they claim, perhaps it's because they haven't reached out and promoted their establishments to nonsmokers.

If they would prefer to go out of business rather than adapt to the public's preference for clean air, it's their choice.

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