Land of smoke-free restaurants

In the long term, a statewide ban on smok-ing in bars and restaurants is necessary.

Wednesday was the last gasp for smokers wishing to light up in Hennepin County and Minneapolis and Bloomington, Minn. – at least in most public areas. Those active in pushing for the ban should be applauded. But there is more work to be done. The main argument against the bans was the worry of huge financial losses for bars and restaurants already operating on slim budgets. These worries will be justified for establishments on county borders. The state must institute a statewide ban for the sake of health and uniformity.

Currently, the smoking bans in effect are nearly as different as cigarette brands. The Mankato, Minn., City Council recently amended its city ordinance to ban smoking in workplaces and indoors. In Hennepin County, almost all public smoking is banned. In Ramsey County, smokers can still burn tobacco in bars that collect more than half of their revenues from liquor.

As it stands, business will be lost to Anoka, Dakota and Washington counties. Elsewhere across the state, the bans are spotty. Duluth and Cloquet have bans while Northfield and St. Cloud do not. In some instances, communities are split in half, as is the case with Rockford. As far as smoking goes, Minnesota is starting to look the way the early colonial Americas looked, with each community with their own and sometimes conflicting rules and currency.

Lastly, Minnesota must take the step to institute a statewide ban for health reasons. Smoking kills. It is illogical for the entire state to wait for all of its counties and cities to fall in line with the ban, when health is concerned. Granted, the economic argument will then shift from those cities that border on counties to those bordering different states, but the most immediate and widespread benefit will be seen through a statewide ban. It’s time for Minnesota to become the land of sky-blue waters and smoke-free air.