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Published: Monday, 6/4/2007

Opponents work to get smoking ban issue back on the ballot


COLUMBUS The smoke from the last war has barely dissipated, but lines are being drawn again for another ballot battle in November over where smokers can light up in Ohio.

An organization representing bars, bowling alleys, private clubs, and others this morning filed paperwork with Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann, the first step on a long road to gathering more than 400,000 signatures to put a question on the Nov. 6 ballot to write exemptions from the strict Smoke Free Workplace Act into the Ohio Constitution.

Restaurants, however, are conspicuously absent from the battle this time around.

"The voters spoke when they said they didn't want smoking in restaurants,'' said Jason Corder, Toledo consultant for the Cincinnati-based Buckeye Liquor Permit Holders Association. " "The restaurant association asked us to leave them out of it.''

He said the association has also filed paperwork with the secretary of state's office to create a political action committee, the Partnership for Job Preservation of Ohio, to raise and spend money on the petition effort and, if successful, the ballot issue.

Mr. Corder said all the money spent to date has come from private business owners and the general public. No decision has been made as to whether it will accept money from the tobacco industry, which heavily financed last year's failed Issue 4, a constitutional amendment proposed as an alternative to Issue 5, the strict ban successfully pushed by the American Cancer Society and other health organizations.

The permit holders association filed more than 1,400 signatures with Mr. Dann. If at least 1,000 are confirmed to be those of registered voters, Mr. Dann will determine whether summary language that would be shown to potential petition signers accurately represents what the proposed amendment would do. If approved, the association would have until early August to submit more than 400,000, geographically balanced signatures to put the issue on the ballot.

All of the initial signatures to start the process were gathered in Lucas County, said Mr. Corder. Bill Delaney, owner of Delaney's Lounge in Toledo, is among the four committee members who put the petitions before Mr. Dann.

The proposed amendment would add stand-alone bars with no more than 10 percent of their income derived from food sales, non-profit private clubs, smoking cessation programs, and medical and scientific research programs to the short list of indoor workplaces exempt under the current law. Bowling alleys would be exempt but only after 6 p.m.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.

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