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Nearly two years after voters passed Ohio's smoking ban, some Toledo area business owners and private club officials are backing a legislative effort to exempt some bars and other establishments.
Ohio's draconian smoking ban has financially hurt bars, private clubs, and other businesses, said Pam Parker, co-founder of Opponents of Ohio Bans.
A drop in wholesale liquor sales, closures, and other ill effects are proving it to lawmakers, she added.
"If we don't get our businesses back as business owners, we're not going to have anything," Ms. Parker told about 75 people during a meeting last night in Sommerset Hall, 2458 Tremainsville Rd. "This is our last shot," she said.
Opponents of the smoking ban long have held that voters were confused by the ballot's wording, which led them to believe family-owned businesses and private clubs would be exempt.
Two bills were introduced in June in the state legislature to exempt more businesses from the smoking ban, which prohibits smoking in most establishments.
The Ohio Senate version - which would allow smoking in family-owned businesses, private clubs that are nonprofit, and all outdoor patios - has a better chance of approval, said Pat Carroll, president of the Buckeye Liquor Permit Holders Association.
The Senate bill defines family-owned business as those that are not publicly owned or traded; have a president or chief operating officer from the family who has controlling interest, and are located in free-standing structures or separated from other businesses by firewalls.
The other bill, introduced in the House, would exempt stand-alone bars from the smoking ban.
Stand-alone bars must not be located within or share common entrances with enclosed areas where smoking is prohibited, and they cannot derive more than 10 percent of gross revenues from food sales, the House bill says.
Smoking ban opponent Bill Delaney, owner of Delaney's Lounge in West Toledo, said the groups may organize a rally in Columbus after the legislature is back in session.
He asked those attending last night's meeting to start gathering signatures in support of the Senate bill. "We need to get the truth out," Mr. Delaney said. "We have to let people know exactly what's going on."
He added: "We need everyone behind us. We need more and more behind us."
Ms. Parker said public health groups first went after smoking, which is weeding out the number of bars. Their next targets will be alcoholism and obesity, further hurting bars and other establishments, she said.
She also questioned the motivation of the nonprofit Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to fund smoking bans. It also is one of the biggest institutional shareholders in Johnson & Johnson, which makes smoking cessation patches, she said. "How has this been allowed?" Ms. Parker asked.
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