Ohio could ban public smoking

Jennifer Zemanek

Ohio has a burning issue for voters to consider this November.

Issue 5, SmokeFreeOhio, is a state initiative to ban smoking in all public and work places.

In Kent, the Smoke-Free Kent Campaign, which is part of the Portage County Tobacco Prevention Coalition, is supporting the issue.

“The Smoke-Free Kent Campaign focuses on spreading the word on the dangers of second-hand smoke and encouraging community involvement,” said Eric Vaiksnoras, a coordinator for the campaign.

The campaign was created by the American Cancer Society and other organizations in the state advocating smoking prevention.

Smoke-Free Kent began in the fall of 2005 and has gained over 700 individual supporters, including more than 30 dining locations such as Pulp Juice and Smoothie Bar, Riverside Wine and Imports and Susan’s Coffee and Tea.

“Susan’s has always been a smoke-free establishment,” manager Emily Douglass-Labbe said. “Smoking is allowed on the outdoor patio, so I think our customers are content with the compromise. Maybe once a week, a customer will want to smoke inside, but it doesn’t negatively impact our business.”

According to a study the coalition conducted, 76 percent of Kent voters are non-smokers.

If Issue 5 does not pass on the November ballot, the Smoke-Free Kent Campaign will continue to work toward its goal of Kent becoming a smoke-free community.

Wayne Wilson, Ward 3 councilman of Kent, said he does not want to put businesses at a disadvantage or take personal rights away from the citizens. He said if the council wanted a smoke-free Kent, the issue would have been brought up when the council recently passed a resolution for smoke-free city buildings. He said the council is hesitant about the issue.

However, Vaiksnoras said the Smoke-Free Kent Campaign is still corresponding with members of the council but is waiting until after the November ballot to pursue further on the issue.

“Research has shown that smoke-free ordinances do not harm businesses,” Vaiksnoras said. “So why then is Kent City Council holding off? To put it simply, fear of change.”

SmokeFreeOhio is not to be confused with Smoke Less Ohio – another smoking ban initiative that excludes establishments such as bars, bowling alleys and restaurants. The initiative is sponsored by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and the Ohio Licensed Beverage Association.

It would also invalidate any local ordinance or local law in effect and would prohibit future laws prohibiting smoking or tobacco products in anyplace.

Contact public affairs reporter Jennifer Zemanek at [email protected].

Know the Issues: Election 2006

Issue 5

• Prohibits smoking in public places and places of employment.

• Exceptions include private residences, designated smoking areas in lodgings, retail tobacco stores, outdoor patios, private clubs and family-owned and operated businesses.

• Authorizes a uniform statewide standard to protect workers and the public from secondhand smoke.

• Requires the posting of “No Smoking” signs and the removal of ashtrays and receptacles from non-smoking areas.

• Imposes civil fines for violators.

Source: smokefreeohio.org