Heaping praise on Toledo for its “courage,” public health advocates in Columbus are pushing the mayor and city council there to adopt a smoking ban modeled after the Glass City.
“Man oh man, what a great piece of work,” said Dr. Rob Crane, co-chairman of the SmokeFree Columbus Coalition, in his praise of Toledo. “The best word to use is inspiration. You guys made something happen in the No. 1 smoking city in the country. ... that is the essence of courage.”
Toledo had the highest adult smoking rate - 31.2 percent - out of 100 metro areas surveyed in 2001, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Toledo City Council in July unanimously passed a ban on smoking inside most public places, including bars and restaurants, with some limited exceptions.
Dr. Crane and other members of his coalition are applying for a $418,000 grant to pay for their public education efforts, which will include attempts to pass bans in Columbus and its suburbs. Dr. Crane said even if his group does not get the money, it hopes to convince the Columbus City Council and Mayor Michael Coleman to pass a tough no-smoking ordinance.
Mike Brown, a spokesman for Mayor Coleman, said the mayor is willing to listen to the coalition s proposal. Mr. Coleman has assigned his city s health department commissioner, Dr. Teresa Long, to act as a liaison to the group.
Mayor Coleman might get some input from another physician - his dad.
The mayor is the son of Dr. John Coleman, a retired physician living in Toledo who s a strong supporter of Toledo s smoking ban. Dr. Coleman said he hasn t pushed his son to follow Toledo s lead, but added that he s “not above it” and may mention the ban the next time they talk.
Dr. Crane predicted Columbus would be just one of many other Ohio cities to follow Toledo s initiative. There have been discussions in Dayton and Cleveland to adopt no-smoking bans similar to Toledo s. A city spokesman said Dayton s proposal has not advanced far but may be taken up for discussion by regional leaders there.
“I m glad to see that because we ve taken the step, other cities are looking at what can be done,” said Louis Escobar, president of Toledo City Council. “We see it [the no-smoking issue] as a very, very serious public health issue.”
While some city council members have expressed second thoughts since the ban s passage, Mr. Escobar said he is not aware of any council proposals to weaken the ban.
A group of Toledo bar and restaurant owners has sued in federal court to stop Toledo s ban from going into effect, and a hearing is scheduled today on the issue. The judge had refused to delay the ban from going into effect but said he still would hold a hearing on the matter. The judge could rule on the case or send it to the Ohio Supreme Court for resolution of a state law issue.
Toledo s smoking ban, which went into effect Aug. 24, allows smoking only in bars and restaurants with separate, fully enclosed rooms with separate ventilation. These special rooms can be no larger than 30 percent of the total serving space and nonsmokers must have other access routes to bathrooms and exits.
In 2001, Bowling Green voters approved a city Clean Indoor Air Act that prohibits smoking in most indoor public areas, including all retail stores, dining areas, and waiting areas. Two exceptions to the ban, however, include restaurants with completely enclosed bar areas designated as smoking rooms and bars that derive less than 35 percent of their annual gross income from the sale of food.
Judy Copeland, owner of The In Zone, a bar at 1701 Lagrange St. in North Toledo, yesterday announced that her business, will close Monday because of what she claims is a falloff in business resulting from the city s smoking ban.
It is the second Toledo bar this month to blame the ban for its closure. Ragtime Rick s Last Draught on Glendale Avenue closed Nov. 3, but court records indicate the business had financial problems that did not appear to be related to the no-smoking law.