Students work for state smoking ban

The University’s Fresh Air chapter focuses on the ban.

Mike Enright

When Sarah Ryder worked at the Applebee’s restaurant in Menomonie, Wis., she couldn’t get away from the cigarette smoke that permeated the local eatery, she said.

“I found myself holding my breath a lot,” she said.

At the time, neither the city nor the state of Wisconsin had a smoking ban in bars or restaurants.

Now Ryder, a public relations junior and student representative on the Daily’s Board of Directors, is working to ban smoking in all Minnesota workplaces, including bars and restaurants.

Ryder is the campus representative of Fresh Air, a statewide organization promoting the cause. The six members of the University’s Fresh Air chapter have mostly focused on gathering support from the college community, Ryder said. They’ve also collected testimonials from bar and restaurant employees in the area.

Before the election, the statewide campaign will present a petition to the three gubernatorial candidates, urging them to support a ban. Fresh Air is also publicizing testimonials on its Web site from service industry workers who support a ban.

Ryder said she became involved with the Fresh Air campaign last spring when the state organization recruited her.

She said she joined because of her own experience and because of the friends and people she knows who still work in the industry, many of whom are students.

“Bar and restaurant employees often get lost in this debate,” Ryder said.

Just because someone decides to work in a bar or restaurant doesn’t mean they choose to work in a smoking environment, Ryder said.

And although they may be conscious that they will be working around smokers, many don’t realize the severity until after actually working there, she said.

Smoking a cigarette on Washington Avenue Southeast on Thursday, computer science sophomore Chris Arnold said people choosing to work in a bar or restaurant should realize they might be working around smokers.

“If people want to go into an occupation, say like bartending, then that is the environment you’re going to be working in,” Arnold said. “And if you don’t want to do that, then that job probably is not for you.”

Arnold said he opposes a complete statewide smoking ban.

The best idea, he said, was the limited ban that was originally proposed in St. Paul, which would exempt bars.

“As far as bars go, it’s kind of an accepted thing (to smoke),” Arnold said. “They are not exactly known to be healthy places.”

Candidates

Peter Hutchinson, the Independence Party candidate for governor, said if elected governor he would “absolutely” support a statewide smoking ban.

It is built into his platform, Hutchinson said, as part of his overall plan to completely revamp Minnesota’s health care system.

“The health care thing is everything from our point of view,” he said. “It’s No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3.”

Hutchinson said his campaign is concerned with other issues as well, but mostly focuses on health care because it costs the state so much money, largely due to two main problems.

“The epidemic of the 20th century, which is tobacco, and the epidemic of the 21st century, which is obesity,” he said.

Hutchison said his overarching proposal would reduce state health care costs by 20 percent.

“We could create jobs like there’s no tomorrow if we could get our health care costs under control,” he said. “But you can’t do that if you don’t deal with smoking.”

As of press time, neither Attorney General Mike Hatch, the DFL candidate for governor nor Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who’s running for reelection, could be reached for comment.