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Published: 7/6/2004

Findlay council to discuss smoking ban

BY MEREDITH HEAGNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

FINDLAY - City leaders are expected to resume the debate tonight over a possible smoking ban that has split the community.

City Council intends to discuss 52 "talking points" drafted by an ad hoc committee that studied the possibility of a ban. Finding a consensus proved difficult, committee members said.

For instance, the committee agreed that smoking shouldn't be permitted in health facilities such as nursing homes and hospitals. But the far more contentious suggestion of banning smoking in bars and restaurants was rejected by a 6-5 vote.

"[A unanimous decision] would've been nice, but I guess that's the beauty of the process," said Jim Slough, a councilman who was on the committee. "The deck wasn't stacked on one side or the other."

Council members will review dozens of "recommendations and principles" that the committee drafted. It is expected to vote whether to accept the committee's report.

A smoking ban could be enacted either by city council or as a result of a citizens' ballot initiative.

But Councilman Rich Rowe said he would be surprised if council or the voters passed a ban. "There's a lot of folks that believe 'big brother' should be staying out of their business," he said, adding that many people think the current division of restaurants into smoking and nonsmoking sections is sufficient.

Smoking bans are in place in Toledo, Bowling Green, and Columbus. The issue has been discussed in Sylvania, Wauseon, Oregon, Dayton, Cleveland, and Cincinnati.

The Findlay ad hoc committee was formed last year after Dr. Stephen Mills, the city's

health commissioner, recommended that city council consider a smoking ban. It included two councilmen, a health department employee, a retired schoolteacher, a bar owner, a doctor, and a hotel owner.

Mr. Rowe, who has a copy of the report, said that the committee voted against a recommendation to segregate smokers and nonsmokers, and was deadlocked on what to do with establishments that cater to minors. It was opposed to exempting establishments of a certain square footage or those that make most of their revenue in alcohol sales.

"It's just viewpoints from throughout the community and it's pretty well-divided," said Mr. Rowe.

Leaders of Findlay Clean Air Now (CAN) said they are waiting to see what city council will do.

"If city council isn't able to protect the workers, then we're going to have to go to the voters," said Amber Wolfrom, CAN spokesman.

After tonight's council meeting, the recommendations will be presented to the city's lawyers, Councilman R. Ronald Monday said.

Regardless of what happens tonight, Mr. Monday acknowledged that the issue is in its preliminary stages.

"I think it has a long way to go," he said. "There seems to be as many people in favor of it as there are against it, so I really don't know."

Contact Meredith Heagney at:

mheagney@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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