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Published: Thursday, 9/4/2003

Findlay studies riding smoking ban wagon


Following the lead of Toledo and Bowling Green, officials in Findlay are considering a smoking ban.

Still in its infancy, the concept was proposed by city Health Commissioner Stephen Mills as a way to protect nonsmoking restaurant employees and patrons. He said he hopes it is an ordinance that can be enacted by City Council, which decided Tuesday to create a committee to study the issue.

“We think it's the perfect time to continue this wave,” Dr. Mills said. Smoking bans have been enacted not only in northwest Ohio but in California, Maine, and New York.

“We think it can happen. The question is, when?” he said.

A smoking ban can be created either by council's action or by a citizens' vote, Service-safety Director Robert Ruse said.

In Findlay, it's too early in the process to determine how, or if, a smoking ban would be implemented, he said.

Councilwoman Marcia Barkey was asked to form a committee to study the issue. She said yesterday she will propose a 10-member panel of smokers and nonsmokers to craft an ordinance. She hopes to have a proposal by the first of the year, she said.

“What I'm going to charge the committee with is finding an equitable solution for both smokers and nonsmokers. I'd like to see something everyone can live with that keeps our air and ground clean,” she said.

In Toledo, a smoking ban took effect Aug. 24, despite complaints of area bar owners and smokers. City Council unanimously passed the anti-smoking law in July, partly as a workplace safety measure to protect employees at bars and restaurants from inhaling second-hand smoke.

It allows smoking only in bars and restaurants with separate, fully enclosed rooms no larger than 30 percent of their total serving space. The rooms must be ventilated separately and may not be the only access for nonsmokers to bathrooms and exits.

Dr. Mills said his department has not developed a full recommendation on whether to propose a ban similar to the one in Toledo or one that targets restaurants, similar to one Bowling Green residents approved in November, 2001. Wauseon will vote on a ban in November.

Bowling Green's Clean Indoor Air Act prohibits smoking in most indoor public areas including all retail stores, dining areas, and waiting areas. Two exceptions to the ban are restaurants with completely enclosed bar areas designated as smoking rooms, and bars that derive less than 35 per cent of their annual gross income from the sale of food.

Attorney Andrew Schuman, who led the campaign to place the Bowling Green issue on the ballot, said he regrets that his city's ordinance is not all-inclusive. He said proponents believed the law would attract more supporters if it left smokers in bars alone.

“It complicates thing dramatically to have exemptions for anything,” he said, adding he'd advise Findlay against doing the same. “The threat is the same: It's a public health hazard anywhere you are. Granted, kids don't go to bars, but bar workers still have to be in it.”

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