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Published: Saturday, 7/17/2004

Sylvania holds up on smoke-ban proposal

BY MIKE JONES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A movement to create an ordinance prohibiting or controlling smoking in public places in Sylvania should be choked off at least until there is state action on the issue, a committee of Sylvania City Council decided yesterday.

Doug Haynam, a member of the employee and community relations committee, said at the outset of the hearing that the city should wait until a call for an amendment to the state Constitution to ban smoking in public places has reached a conclusion.

Mr. Haynam noted that State Rep. Lynn Olman (R., Maumee) has said he will introduce a resolution to begin the process leading to a vote on amending the Constitution, and the city should let "the initiative play out before Sylvania goes it alone."

Mark Luetke, chairman of the committee, said he disagreed, noting that the momentum for smoking regulation is growing.

"It's headed our way," Mr. Luetke said, either by state action or petitions to put the issue on the local ballot.

"I personally think this is a safety issue," he said.

Mr. Luetke said he thinks a local ordinance could affect some local businesses, and City Council should create an ordinance that works for the community.

If council doesn't act, someone "will do it for us or someone will do it to us," he said.

He also noted that Mr. Olman is leaving the state legislature because of term limits, and questioned what impact that

might have on a statewide move to regulate smoking.

Another committee member, Todd Milner, said he too prefers waiting for state action because he favors a "level playing field," and is concerned about the consequences some restaurants and taverns might feel if smoking is regulated in the city.

Barbara Sears, president of Sylvania council and the fourth member of the four-person committee, said even though Sylvania Township officials say they would work toward passage of a common ordinance to limit smoking, she questioned their ability to legally pass such legislation.

She said she is certain any measure passed by the township would be challenged, and if the township couldn't enforce smoking regulations, Sylvania businesses could be hurt.

Mr. Milner said even if Sylvania Township could enforce such an ordinance, Springfield and Monclova townships are not home-rule townships and can't pass such a law. He said smokers would not have far to travel to find a restaurant or bar where they could smoke.

Several Toledo bar owners told the committee Toledo's Clean Indoor Air Ordinance has harmed their businesses and urged Sylvania's council not to follow the same path.

Arnie Elzy, owner of a bar and restaurant in the Westgate area, said his business has dropped off and he's had to lay off employees since Toledo's ban took effect a little more than a year ago.

"The effects were immediate and very costly," he said.

He and other owners claim their business problems are directly attributable to Toledo's restrictions on public smoking.

Stuart Kerr, a regional coordinator for the American Heart Association, said passing an ordinance to prohibit public smoking "is a no-brainer." He pointed to the costs in lost production from smoking-related illnesses and other factors, adding, "There is no excuse in the world to expose anyone to smoke."

Committee members agreed to help coordinate a public meeting for Mr. Olman on the issue of a potential amendment and to ask the Sylvania Area Chamber of Commerce to canvass its members for opinions on smoking restrictions in public places.

Contact Mike Jones at:

mjones@theblade.com

or 419-724-6096.



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