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Published: Saturday, 4/8/2006

Opponents of smoking ban offer alternative


COLUMBUS - Seeking to stamp out a ballot question that would enact a statewide ban on smoking in nearly all indoor public places, a coalition of bars, restaurants, and other businesses yesterday launched plans to put their alternative before voters.

The coalition submitted proposed language for a constitutional amendment to Attorney General Jim Petro, a necessary step before asking more than 320,000 registered voters to sign petitions to place the proposed amendment on the ballot. The proposal would exempt from the ban bars, restaurants with separate smoking areas, bowling alleys, bingo parlors, adult establishments, racetracks, tobacco retail establishments, specially designated smoking rooms in hotels and nursing homes, and any private residence or facility not open to the public.

It would also override smoking bans enacted in 21 communities in the state, including Toledo.

"Our coalition has conducted several polls that show that when offered a choice between a total ban and a measure that contains common-sense exemptions, the majority of Ohioans support a reasonable smoking policy," said Jacob Evans of the Ohio Licensed Beverage Association.

A near-total ban on smoking in enclosed public places proposed by SmokeFreeOhio does not involve a constitutional amendment. It first petitioned the General Assembly to enact its proposal, something legislative leaders have no plans of doing. Once the deadline for legislative action expires, the group plans to gather signatures to take the proposal to voters, a process that requires about half as many signatures as a proposed constitutional amendment.

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