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Published: Saturday, 7/19/2003

Smoking ban may go to vote


Toledo bar owners this week have begun distributing petitions to have the anti-smoking ordinance put on the Nov. 4 ballot for repeal.

Bill Delaney, owner of Delaney's Lounge, 309 West Alexis Rd., said he has had many offers of assistance.

“We have a lot of nonsmokers who are taking this petition and signing this petition,” Mr. Delaney said. “It's a rights issue. What is the next thing up? If they are allowed to do this, when are they going to get inside our homes?”

However, supporters of the smoking ban are confident it will survive the referendum effort.

“I think they may get the signatures. But when it comes to the vote, I think they'll be surprised,” council President Louis Escobar said. “I think some people wanted [the ordinance] to be stronger than it was. I think we had a good compromise.”

Joe Kidd, director of the Lucas County Board of Elections, said repeal could have an effect on the campaigns of council members on the ballot.

“It could be the defining issue of the election,” Mr. Kidd said.

The ordinance was adopted by city council on July 8 in an 11-0 vote with one member of council absent. It takes effect Aug. 24. The ordinance extends an existing ban on smoking in public places to restaurants and taverns, as well as bowling alleys and bingo halls. It allows establishments to set aside a separately vented, fully enclosed smoking lounge no larger than 30 percent of the total area.

The opponents must collect at least 9,479 signatures, equal to 12 percent of the total votes cast in the last mayoral election. They have 30 days to present their signatures.

John Madigan, chief counsel for the city, said that under the city charter, the ordinance would not go into effect if the opponents collect enough signatures to put it on the ballot.

He cited Section 41 of the city charter, which states that if a referendum is demanded on a measure, “the same shall not take effect until after approval by the people.”

Mayor Jack Ford said yesterday he won't campaign against the referendum.

“I believe in the democratic process,” he said. “However I also believe that if the referendum is put to a vote of the people, the majority will vote in favor of a smoking ban.”

Bar owners contend the law is unfair to them because a large majority of their patrons smoke cigarettes. They fear they'll lose customers to competitors in adjacent communities where the ban is not in effect.

They also say that smaller bar owners won't be able to afford to build a smoking lounge.

Dr. David Grossman, health commissioner for the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, said the coalition that successfully pushed for the smoking ban is now working on education efforts.

He said meetings will be held with restaurant and bar owners to explain the law to them.

There also will be educational sessions to help people stop smoking.

He said no anti-referendum campaign has been organized.

“If they get it on the ballot, I think our campaign will be `those of you who don't smoke, this is your chance to be heard,'” Dr. Grossman said.

“No one hears the voices of those who are grateful for this ordinance. They just hear the ones who are mad. It's a loud minority,” he said.

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