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Published: Friday, 10/29/2004

Last televised debate before vote focuses on smoke ban amendment

In what most likely will be the final televised debate on Issue 4, a ballot issue Tuesday that would scale back Toledo's existing smoking ban, a top advocate and an opponent of the amendment yesterday engaged in a "gentlemanly" discussion that will be aired tonight on The Editors.

Arnie Elzey, owner of Arnie's Saloon and a leading member of Citizens for Common Sense, the group sponsoring Issue 4, sat beside Dr. David Grossman, Toledo-Lucas County health commissioner, while the two answered a variety of questions related to the effects of the city's current Clean Indoor Air Ordinance, the reasons behind Issue 4, and what an amended law could mean for Toledo.

They were questioned by Tom Walton, vice president-editor of The Blade. The Editors will air at 8:30 tonight on WGTE-TV, Channel 30, and 12:30 p.m. Sunday on WBGU-TV, Channel 27.

Issue 4, if passed with enough "yes" votes, would amend Toledo's Clean Indoor Air Ordinance to allow smoking in bowling alleys, bingo parlors, bars that receive less than 35 percent of their income from food, and restaurants with nine or fewer employees. It also would allow smoking lounges in restaurants to be as large as 50 percent of an establishment's service area.

Mr. Elzey put forth the amendment as a compromise that would give a break to "the places that have been hurt the most" by Toledo's smoking ban, while Dr. Grossman claimed the amendment would reduce the effectiveness of the current law "almost down to zero."

The topics most central to the debate on the ordinance - whether amended or not - relate to its effect on Toledo taverns and restaurants and the health of those establishments' patrons and employees.

Mr. Elzey claims a personal loss of 40 percent of his business and 22 employees. "It's a matter of fact," Mr. Elzey said of the economic effects of the current ban and the primary reason behind the amendment.

Dr. Grossman countered that Toledo "can't lose focus" of the real issue: "This isn't about business, it's about health," and offered that as the cost of health care rises, a less-healthy Toledo could be put at a competitive disadvantage in terms of labor costs when sized up by larger companies, such as Jeep.

The two also touched on several ban-related economic studies carried out in Toledo - enforcement issues relating to the current law as well as a possible amended law, the "Taverns for Tots" controversy, and the future of smoke-free ordinances in Ohio and the rest of the country.

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