St. Paul mayor to review second try at smoking ban

by Emily Kaiser

University graduate Craig Boe is one of many bar patrons faced with various smoking ban ordinances across the metro area.

Boe, who calls himself a “militant nonsmoker,” said he spends his time with a group of 10 to 15 friends at the Dubliner Pub in St. Paul. For him, the issue is what his friends who smoke will do if the St. Paul ordinance is signed by Mayor Randy Kelly this week.

“I have friends who are smokers, and I might not get to see them as much if they were cut off,” Boe said.

The St. Paul City Council recently passed a smoking ordinance which bans smoking in all restaurants and bars. Kelly will decide within a week whether to veto it.

Kelly was unavailable for comment.

City council meetings have been crowded with supporters and critics anxious to voice their opinions.

“I had no idea how angry the tobacco industry and smokers would be, but on the other end I had no idea how many people would stand up and rally behind it,” said City Council member Dave Thune, Ward 2, who created the ordinance.

The ban would follow in the recent steps of Minneapolis and Bloomington, which passed complete smoking bans, effective March 31, 2005. The complete ban prohibits smoking in all of the cities’ bars and restaurants.

Thune, who is currently trying to quit smoking, said he started looking around the last few years and saw what secondhand smoke was doing to his family.

“My wife won’t go out with me to hear bands because it’s too smoky,” he said. “I realized it’s pretty selfish of smokers to subject everyone else to secondhand smoke.”

Thune said it is very doubtful Kelly will sign the ordinance, and many local hospitals and health groups have met with Kelly to encourage him to sign.

“This new ordinance meets all of Kelly’s demands and we hope he signs,” said Corinne Ertz, the grassroots advocacy manager for the American Cancer Society and a University graduate.

Kelly vetoed the first proposed smoking ban ordinance in St Paul on July 6. Since the veto, he has continually asked for a regional approach. He is more likely to jump on board with a partial ban similar to the Olmstead County version, Thune said.

Under the Olmstead model, any establishment making more than 50 percent of its profit from alcohol sales would be exempt. Most bars would continue to allow smoking under this ordinance.

“It may sound good saying 90 percent of establishments will be smoke-free,” Thune said. “But most of those will be Perkins, McDonalds and places like that.

“Anyone who works in a bar still has to be subjected to it and be treated as second-class citizens,” he said.

The ordinance passed 4 to 3 in the St. Paul City Council on Sept. 1. Those against the complete smoking ban would support the partial smoking ban, which is likely to pass in Ramsey County.

“I think the Olmstead model is a reasonable way to get started and we will see where it goes from there,” said Dan Bostrom, St. Paul City Council member, Ward 6.

Thune said he thinks Kelly values big business more than public health concerns.

“I have got to think it’s a political thing, which he views support from the liquor industry as more important than public health,” Thune said.

Bostrom said he has heard from many residents who have spoken out against the ordinance.

“I represent a part of town where people are smart enough to know that if they are affected by secondhand smoke, they don’t go into restaurants that offer smoking,” he said.

Bostrom said the people he has heard from don’t see this as a health concern.

“Most of them see this as an intrusion of their freedom as opposed to anything else with the health issue,” he said.

Ramsey County will hold a public hearing about the smoking ban today at 9 a.m.