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Published: Tuesday, 10/2/2001

B.G. voters to decide on ban on smoking

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The owner of Easy Street Cafe - a popular dining and drinking spot on South Main Street - says he doesn't expect the ban to affect his business drastically.

“The way I look at it, if you can't go into an establishment and smoke, you're not going to quit going out to eat,” Mr. Pirooz said. “Now if we were to independently go out and say no smoking, we may upset a few smokers who say, ‘We won't go back there.' If we don't have a choice, what are you going to do?”

Larry Sorrells, Wood County health commissioner, is vice chairman of the coalition. He said that while the initiative is not sponsored by the health department, the board of health last month voted unanimously to endorse it.

“It is clearly a public health issue,” he said. “The effects of second-hand smoke are fairly well documented and I think very easily understood.”

Unlike a blanket smoking ban imposed this summer in Lucas County by the Toledo-Lucas County board of health, this measure offers a compromise, Mr. Sorrells said.

Not only would the Bowling Green measure permit smoking in bars, but it would be imposed by the people, not a governmental entity.

The Lucas County smoking ban has been challenged in U.S. District Court, and a federal judge has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to take the case. “Will this one be challenged? I don't know,” Mr. Sorrells said. “It is different and it is the vote of the people, the will of the people.”

Still, the idea ruffles the feathers of some private business owners. “My opinion is it should be my choice. It affects my building, and it's your choice whether you want to come in here,” said Bill Wammes, owner of Al-Mar Lanes on North Main Street. “You don't have to go bowl. At the courthouse or a public building where everyone may have to go at one time, I can understand, but we don't force anyone to come in here.”

Mr. Wammes said that for several years he has offered smoke-free bowling on Saturdays and Sundays during daytime hours. If the initiative passes, he would have to ban smoking altogether unless he partitions off the lounge.

“It would be absurd,” he said.

The board of trustees of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce plans to discuss whether to take a position on the issue at its next meeting, which is scheduled for Friday, said director Jennifer Ruhe.

Main Street BG, which works to promote the downtown, “does not have a stance on this issue,” said Earlene Kilpatrick, manager. “We only encourage everyone in the community to be informed of this particular issue.”

Main Street BG co-sponsored a forum for city business owners on the topic in June, but only a handful of people and just one downtown bar owner showed up for it.

Mr. Sorrells said he thinks residents will support the measure.

“I'm optimistic. I think it has a very good shot at passing,” he said. “I'm certainly in favor of things that will improve the health status of Wood Countians.”



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