Smoking ban pros-cons aired at county meeting
By Sonja Kosler Staff Writer About 60 people mainly from New York Mills and Perham attended an informational meeting April 6 about a proposed countywide smoking ban. The meeting was held at the County Offices building in New York Mills. The Otter...
By Sonja Kosler
About 60 people mainly from New York Mills and Perham attended an informational meeting April 6 about a proposed countywide smoking ban. The meeting was held at the County Offices building in New York Mills.
The Otter Tail County Community Health Services Advisory Board has recommended language for an ordinance that would ban smoking throughout Otter Tail County in public places, places of work with two or more employees, and within 25 feet of entrances, exits, open windows, and ventilation intakes of those places.
The advisory board sees the ordinance as necessary to protect the public health, welfare and safety by better ensuring the ability of citizens to breathe safe and uncontaminated air; to affirm that the right to breathe has priority over the desire to smoke; and to protect vulnerable populations, including employees, children, the elderly and those with chronic health conditions.
While many in the audience spoke in favor of the ban, others spoke strongly against it. Some question the scope of the ordinance wondering why it needs to include bars. Some business owners say a forced smoking ban will be disastrous to small businesses and charitable organizations. We dont want this pressed on us. Why do we have to have something this drastic pushed on us right now? Others question the validity of the health research.
Tom Helcl, owner of T-Bonz Steakhouse and Saloon in Perham and the Wild Walleye Resort, has a smoke-free certificate for his restaurant but feels his bar and resort could not withstand the loss of customers if he couldnt allow smoking. He also says studies by the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association dont paint a true picture of the hazards of secondhand smoke. He says they dont publicize the studies that show there are no significant effects on humans from secondhand smoke.
Hank Weber of Pelican Rapids says its about choices. Any business owner who wants to can have a no smoking establishment. Why do we have to have a law? This is America; we have the freedom to do what we want.
Perham High School student, Dave Tomporowski asked decision makers to remember the young people. Kids truly are our future.
Otter Tail County Public Health Director Diane Thorson will make notes of concerns and areas where clarification may be needed. That information and comments received at an April 10 meeting in Fergus Falls will be considered with written testimony by the advisory board. They will meet on April 13 to make any necessary changes before forwarding the revised draft ordinance to the County Commissioners.
County Commissioners Bob Block, Roger Froemming, Malcom Lee, Dennis Mosher, and Syd Nelson listened carefully to public comments and will consider them along with other public and written comments when reviewing the proposed ordinance later this month. If they determine to proceed with enactment of the ordinance then public hearings and official notices would occur.
Secondhand Smoke Coalitions have formed in Perham and Fergus Falls with the goal of mobilizing community support for a countywide secondhand smoke ordinance. The Perham Coalition is led by Robianne Schultz, Ron Anderson, and Dr. Rand Stolee. In Fergus Falls, Desta Hunt and Dr. David Sanderson chair the Coalition.
For more information about the proposed ordinance, contact Otter Tail County Public Health at (218) 998-9848.