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Published: Thursday, 8/21/2003

Wauseon to vote on smoking ban

BY TAD VEZNER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Voters in Wauseon soon will be asked whether they approve of a smoking ban of their own.

The November ballot in the Fulton County city 40 miles west of Toledo will include an initiative asking voters if they want to eliminate “smoking in workplaces and enclosed public places [100 percent smoke-free].” An initiative is an effort to get a law enacted.

The initiative results from a petition circulated by the Tobacco-Free Fulton County Coalition. The group needed 203 signatures to put the matter on the ballot. It submitted 328 signatures to the Fulton County elections board; 275 eventually were ruled valid.

Wauseon has 4,170 registered voters.

“We think it makes sense to keep all smoke out of all areas where customers are let in,” coalition member Stu Kerr said.

“It's about change,” Mr. Kerr said. “In the rest of the country it's turned out not to be a big deal.”

Contrary to the wording on the ballot, the initiative actually would allow smoking inside public places - though only if the smoking was done in an airtight, designated area that had separate ventilation.

Wauseon City Council still could amend the initiative if it passes.

Wauseon Mayor Jerry Matheny, who smoked three to four packs a day for 40 years until he quit 12 years ago and last month stated his opposition to the ban, said that although he now plans to vote for the ban, he still feels it is worded “a little too strict for people to readily accept.”

“I hope it doesn't defeat itself,” Mr. Matheny said.

“It'd be nice, but closed, air-locked rooms with separate ventilation are a financial impossibility for most businesses,” he added.

John Weber, who owns John Weber's Good Food in Wauseon, agrees.

“I have a door already on my smoking area, but if they start talking separate ventilation, then we'd just be nonsmoking,” Mr. Weber said. “It would cost thousands of dollars to put that in.”

“I hate smoke. I've never smoked in my life - but when an outside group tells me what to do with a legal product, that infringes on my own freedom,” Mr. Weber added.

Charles Bryan, who owns Doc Holiday's steakhouse and saloon in Wauseon, said it's more about what his customers want.

“If the majority of my customers were for the ban, I'd certainly do what they wanted,” Mr. Bryan said.

“But I don't think an outside group should be able to determine what my customers want,” he said.

But Jerry Ehman, general manager of Don's Bar & Pizzeria in Wauseon, said there's no question what his customers want.

“My customers have been talking about it all day,” Mr. Ehman said. “Smokers have rights, too. If the mayor wouldn't have quit smoking, I don't think this would be an issue.”

Mr. Ehman said he believes the ban will hurt business - especially in the winter.

“People won't want to walk outside in the winter,” he said. “And there's no area to shut off in here.”



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