Ban sparks debate in cities

Ramsey County passed a partial smoking ban effective March 31, 2005.

by Emily Kaiser

Ramsey County passed a partial smoking ban yesterday, while Hennepin County held a public hearing on the issue.

As discussions of the bans continue around the metro area, bar owners and workers are looking toward a state wide ban as a compromise.

The partial ban passed in Ramsey County goes into effect March 31, 2005, and will only ban smoking in restaurants and bars with less than 50 percent of sales in alcohol.

Full smoking bans in Bloomington, Minn., and Minneapolis will go into effect on the same day.

For local bars and restaurants, the recent smoking bans, set to take effect next year, could potentially take a toll on business.

Dave Ricker, manager at the Turf Club in St. Paul, said the recent Minneapolis ban might help his business when Minneapolis bar patrons come to St. Paul to smoke.

Ricker said he wouldn’t support a state wide ban, but said it would be a better way of looking at the issue.

“I wouldn’t support it just because it’s a private business,” he said. “It’s just like if you don’t like the smell of garbage, don’t become a garbage man.”

Ramsey County Commissioner Rafael Ortega, District 5, had hoped for a complete smoking ban similar to those in Bloomington, Minn., and Minneapolis, but said Ramsey County didn’t have the necessary votes.

“I, along with two other commissioners, were for a full ban but we didn’t have the votes, so we did the next best thing,” Ortega said.

Despite Ortega’s original plan for the complete smoking ban, he said he is optimistic.

“I am very satisfied with this,” he said. “You can always look at the world as the glass being half empty, but I like to talk about it being half full.”

“Moving ahead on such an important issue like this is better than standing still,” Ortega said.

The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners held a public hearing Tuesday regarding a complete smoking ban for the county. The ban resembles the ordinance passed in Minneapolis.

More than 30 people spoke at the hearing, and the board will vote on the ban Sept. 28.

Larry An, an assistant professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University, said secondhand smoke is dangerous, and many people are sick of dealing with other patrons’ smoke.

“I think what you are seeing is that people are tired of breathing other people’s smoke,” he said. “People don’t like smelling like an ashtray when they come home”.