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Published: Friday, 4/16/2004

Toledo's mayor coaches Columbus on smoking ban

BY JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - Toledo Mayor Jack Ford had a lot of advice yesterday for Columbus officials who are pursuing a law to ban smoking in restaurants and bars.

Go slow, listen to everyone, educate businesses, encourage editorial page support, try to get a unanimous city council vote, and talk about "breathing clean air'' instead of banning smoking, Mr. Ford said.

"It's not for the politically faint of heart," Mr. Ford told about 100 community activists. "I found this issue can stir a more visceral reaction from citizens than abortion or even gun-carrying rights.

"Be prepared for hot language. My advice is to remain patient, focus on a reasonable approach, and listen to people," the Toledo mayor said.

In July, 2003, Toledo City Council approved an ordinance that prohibits smoking in most Toledo bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, bingo halls, and other public places.

Exempted are private clubs, private social functions, approved smoking lounges, and bars smaller than 245 square feet.

Mr. Ford said 59 bars and restaurants - out of 1,500 businesses - have invested in separate, fully enclosed rooms with separate ventilation where smoking is allowed.

Yesterday was the first of

eight public forums in Columbus on the effects of secondhand smoke and a "clean indoor air'' ordinance.

Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, who grew up in Toledo, attended a breakfast meeting about a proposed smoking ban that reporters were not allowed to attend at the Columbus Health Department.

He did not attend the community forum and an aide said Mr. Coleman has not taken a position on the issue yet.

Columbus councilman Charleta Tavares said council won't take action until a group of smoking-ban supporters called the SmokeFree Columbus Coalition releases its recommendations.

"The evidence is now undeniable and overwhelming," said Dr. Rob Crane, president of the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation.

"Smoking in homes, workplaces, and public places endangers not only smokers but also those who are exposed to secondhand smoke,'' he said.

Bishop Timothy Clarke, co-chairman of the SmokeFree Columbus Coalition, predicted that opponents of a smoking ban will "make us out to be terrible people.''

But Bishop Clarke, senior pastor of First Church of God in Columbus, urged his allies to remain focused on who would benefit from a smoking ban.

"There's some person in this city who's waking up: It may be a gentleman striving to provide for his family or a single mom struggling to take care of her children, and they're getting ready to go to work.

"And in that restaurant for the next eight or nine hours, that person will have to be exposed to secondhand smoke. It will jeopardize their life, perhaps shorten their lifespan," Bishop Clarke said.

In August, 1994, a Franklin County judge struck down the decisions of five Columbus area health boards that approved rules banning smoking in all public buildings except bars.

The lead plaintiff that successfully fought the countywide ban owned Cookie's Diner on East Broad Street in Columbus.

The small restaurant, which has been renamed Frank's, continues to have no restrictions on smoking and owner Frank Riley said his customers don't want that to change.

"I feel that someone who does not smoke should not have the right to tell my customers: 'We will ban it citywide.' If there is a ban, I'm not going to enforce it. If they want to have the smoking police out and kick at whoever is smoking, feel free to do it. It's getting more and more like a communist state," he said.

Jonathan Rascoe, 24, was smoking a cigarette yesterday afternoon outside the restaurant he manages in the Columbus Square Bowling Palace.

He said a possible solution in Columbus would be to restrict smoking in public places such as bowling alleys until a time when those who are under 18 years old won't be around.

The bowling alley has installed air-handling and filtration equipment, and bans smoking inside when children's tournaments are held, said Mr. Rascoe.

Jerry F. Smith, a Columbus resident who is a metal artist, bought two cartons of cigarettes yesterday at Tobacco Discounters, a small shop which has a yellow smiley face smoking a cigarette as its logo.

Mr. Smith said he would agree to an ordinance similar to the one in Toledo, saying he knows of at least one restaurant in Columbus where smokers and nonsmokers are separated by a glass wall.

"I restrict my smoking to one room in my home," he said.

Contact James Drew at:

jdrew@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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