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Published: Tuesday, 8/24/2004

Lenawee considers smoke ban for county

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Lenawee County health officials have begun efforts to pass an ordinance that would require all businesses in the county to make their buildings smoke-free.

The ordinance, if approved, would not include bars and restaurants, since a Michigan law prohibits municipalities and county governments from enacting such legislation.

"I obviously think it's a good thing," said Susie Reitbauer, health educator at the Lenawee County Health Department. "We want to protect workers from the risk of secondhand smoke. I look at it strictly as a health issue."

The county's health board last week voted 5-0 to seek support for a no-smoking workplace ordinance. Smoking already is prohibited in all county buildings, Ms. Reitbauer said.

If approved, Lenawee would become the fifth Michigan county to pass such an ordinance, following Genesse, Chippewa, Washtenaw, and Ingham.

Genesse County passed its ordinance in November and it took effect in March. Ten years earlier, the county had passed a similar no-smoking ordinance for public buildings. Bobby Pestronk, health officer with the county's health department, said the second ordinance passed a lot faster than the first one, which took two years for approval.

"Times have changed in the last 10 years. It was much more controversial the first time around," he said.

Monroe County has no plans to adopt a similar smoking ban, a county health department official said yesterday.

Michael Kight, a health officer in Adrian, said he expects it to take six months to two years before the health board will turn the issue over to the county commission for a final vote.

"We need to build some consensus in the community," he said.

Ms. Reitbauer said county health officials will meet with their counterparts in the other counties that passed a similar ordinance and hold a series of public meetings.

"We want to find out what the voters are thinking," she said.

The state law allows restaurant owners and bars that serve food to keep up to 75 percent of their space for smokers, said Ken Wozniak, director of executive services for Michigan Liquor Control. The state law supersedes any ordinance passed by counties or municipalities.

In 2001, the city of Marquette passed a no-smoking ordinance for bars and restaurants, but the ordinance was challenged by the Michigan Restaurant Association, which won its case, Mr. Wozniak said.

Contact George J. Tanber at:

gtanber@theblade.com

or 734-241-3610.



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