Smoking ban takes effect

Alyssa Kroeten

One thing is conspicuously absent from the dimly lit bars and restaurants of Minnesota: smoke.

The Minnesota Freedom to Breathe Act became effective yesterday, prohibiting smoking in almost all indoor public places, to protect the public and employees from the hazards of secondhand smoke. It is an expansion of the current Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act which affects businesses such as restaurants, bars and private clubs.

University businesses were already operating under the Minneapolis “No Smoking” Ordinance since March 31, 2005, which also prohibits smoking in bars and restaurants.

Grandma’s Saloon & Grill said the citywide ban had little effect on business because most people smoked outside, retail manager Chris Lund said.

Although business slowed down initially, Andy Salmen, manager of the Dinkytowner Café, said he was happy about the citywide ban from a health standpoint.

“We have a low-ranging ceiling so it got really smoky down here,” Salmen said. “It looked like we had a constant fog machine going on.”

Stub & Herbs Drinking and Dining Emporium ownership supports the statewide ban because it supports healthy living and keeps the air clean and customers happy, co-owner Justin Zavadil said.

He doubts it will negatively affect the restaurant because smokers are used to the citywide ban.

Cultural studies junior Anna Scallon is a smoker and said it’s not the governments’ business to ban smoking.

“It should be a business’s own choice,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that the businesses are affected without really having any say in it.”

A state law should not be controlling smokers’ lives to such an extent, said Katherine Little, psychology first-year and former smoker.

“Forcing people to rearrange their lives around an addiction is preposterous,” she said. “Addiction is addiction.”

The FTB Act and Minneapolis ordinance do not regulate smoking outside of businesses, regardless of the distance from the building or its entrance. According to the act, property owners are to decide if they want to create such restrictions regarding their property and businesses.

Stub & Herbs provides a patio equipped with heat lamps and ashtrays because they understand some of their clientele still smoke, Zavadil said.

“We’re a bar and people smoke,” he said. “People have a place where they can go and be comfortable and not stand out on the sidewalk.”

Health effects are the most compelling reason for a statewide ban, Deborah Hennrikus, associate professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health, said. The effects of environmental tobacco smoke are a public health problem, she added.

Hennrikus said many young adults are social smokers, which means they only smoke at places such as bars and restaurants.

“We’re concerned that if you allow smoking in these venues, then the social smoking will progress to daily smoking,” Hennrikus said. “We’re hoping that if smoking is eliminated in these venues that fewer people will progress to daily smoking.”

Student smoking rates at the University have been in steady decline since 1998, according to a 2006 University of Minnesota Tobacco, Alcohol and Other Drug Use report.

In 1998, 41.8 percent of 18- to 24-year-old undergraduate students used tobacco, compared to 24.9 percent in 2006.

These declines are a result of policies such as the smoking ban, Dave Golden, director of marketing at Boynton Health Service, said.

“A lot of smokers that we talk to, they don’t want to be forcing other people to be smoking their secondhand smoke,” Golden said.

The statewide ban will help reduce the rate of student smokers even further, he said.

Doug Schultz, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Health and Communications Services, said education is essential to implementing the act.

“The public are going to be instrumental in helping to gain compliance,” Schultz said.

People are encouraged to talk to proprietors or business owners if they witness violation of the law.

MDH has the authority to issue monetary penalties of up to $10,000, but will use it as a last resort, Schultz said.

Local law enforcement also has the ability to issue petty misdemeanor citations, but such action varies from city to city.

Original author of MCIAA in 1975, Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, said the FTB act will have no negative effect on University bars and restaurants.

“The dining-out experience is made so much more enjoyable,” Kahn said. “This is a big step forward.”