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Published: Tuesday, 8/3/2004

Findlay to review smoking proposals

FINDLAY - City Council tonight will get its first look at not one, but two, proposed smoking laws: one that calls for a complete ban, and another that keeps regulations pretty much the way they've been for the last decade.

Councilman Randy Ward said yesterday he will introduce legislation that would prohibit smoking in all enclosed public places, including bars and restaurants.

The exceptions are very few: designated guest rooms at hotels; patient rooms at nursing homes in which the occupants request in writing to be placed in a room where smoking is allowed; limousines in which the driver and all passengers agree to smoking in the vehicle; retail tobacco stores, and rooms or halls that are rented for private social functions.

Mr. Ward said though he knows council is not likely to support such a strict law, he had hoped his proposal could be approved with some amendments. He was surprised to learn late last week that a second ordinance was being introduced.

That proposal, drafted by council members David Cliffe, Andy Peters, and Richard Rowe, permits smoking in bars, restaurants, and bowling alleys with only a few restrictions.

"It pretty much does nothing more than already exists in town," Mr. Ward said.

Councilman Rowe disagreed, calling the proposal he worked on a compromise between a total ban and no ban at all.

While the ordinance does not change restrictions on bars and restaurants, he said, it adds requirements for signage, adds a ban on smoking within 20 feet of main entrances to government buildings, and adds nursing homes and day care centers to the list of buildings where smoking is prohibited.

"Our community is not for a complete ban," Mr.

Rowe said.

He said he believes introducing an alternative to Mr. Ward's legislation is best done now because it will give citizens the time to get an initiative on the November ballot if they do not like the direction council is taking on the smoking issue.

Those in favor of a smoking ban to benefit customers' and workers' health say the less restrictive ordinance does not go far enough.

"We've tried to stand firmly that this is about public health; it's not about private enterprise," said Tom Davis, substance abuse coordinator for the city Health Department. "We're asking City Council to do the right thing for public health."

Findlay began considering a smoking ordinance last year when city Health Commissioner Stephen Mills said the regulations the health department adopted in 1992 might not be enforceable in light of an Ohio Supreme Court decision striking down the Toledo-Lucas County Board of Health's smoking ban.

An ad hoc committee chaired by Mr. Cliffe met for more than eight months to study the issue but couldn't agree on a definitive recommendation to send to council.

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