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Published: 3/21/2001

Emotions run high at hearing on smoke ban

There's disagreement about the proposal to ban smoking in public places in Lucas County, but the battle to pass the proposal probably won't end until the courts decide.

Mark Adams, for one, is ready to take up the legal fight. Mr. Adams, a lawyer who recently moved back to Toledo to take over his father-in-law's bar, was the first speaker last night during the second public hearing held on the proposed smoking ban.

“If you were wondering if there will be a court challenge, I can almost guarantee it,” he told the Toledo-Lucas County board of health during the public hearing at Riverside Mercy Hospital.

The 11-member board is considering a proposal that would ban smoking inside all public places in Lucas County, including bars and restaurants. The board could vote on the proposal next month.

Another public hearing is expected to be held, although a date hasn't been set.

After Mr. Adams spoke, 22 other people marched to the podium to give the board a piece of their mind - some praised members of the board, others criticized them.

Bar and restaurant owners criticized the board because they insist the proposal would kill their businesses.

“I beg you” not to do this, said Bill Delaney, owner of Delaney's Lounge at 309 West Alexis Rd. “You're looking at one [bar owner] that will go down the tubes. ... The people who come into my establishment smoke and drink. ... If [banning smoking] was so popular, why hasn't someone in this town opened a no-smoking bar?”

On the other side of the issue were nonsmokers, including medical professionals and other private citizens, who said the board had a responsibility to pass the regulation.

Dr. Bob Kose, a pulmonary specialist in Toledo, told the board he gets lots of “business” from smokers, but he'd be thrilled if the board passed the regulation. He criticized some at the hearing who questioned whether second-hand smoke was harmful.

“I am a physician, and I've read the articles. There's just no doubt,” he said.

One amusing exchange took place after Ruth Bensch, a registered nurse, told the board of her studies showing that children who've been around smokers have high levels of carbon monoxide.

After she sat down, nursing student Danielle Mulligan stood up and told the board she never smoked around her child and tried to be considerate to nonsmokers, but it was wrong to go after bar owners and smokers.

“There are a lot of things we do in life that are not healthy,” she said.

Patricia Wilcox, a board member and one of Ms. Mulligan's nursing instructors, corrected some of Ms. Mulligan's statements.

Board member Arturo Quintero smiled as he assured Ms. Mulligan her comments would have no impact on her grades.

Dr. John Newton, board president, told Ms. Mulligan that “you're very good at protecting your child from second-hand smoke. Why do you not feel it's important to protect others who don't smoke?”

Mike Vanderhorst, a lawyer who specializes in workers compensation law, told the board that second-hand smoke is a health hazard to employees and customers alike, and the board has a responsibility to act.

Mr. Quintero, a lawyer who is executive assistant to Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, asked whether the health board was “going down a slippery slope,” and whether the marketplace, not government, should decide to ban smoking.

“Back in the 1960s, the market dictated where blacks could eat,” Mr. Vanderhorst pointed out.

The exchange between the two lawyers was another reminder of where the no-smoking battle will probably end up.

Mr. Adams' parting words to the board after he finished his presentation? “I'll see you in court.”



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