EDEN PRAIRIE (AP) -- The lung cancer death of Mayor Jean Harris and her unfulfilled last wish for a smoking ban in workplaces, including restaurants, are providing the impetus for an emotional campaign in this growing Twin Cities suburb.
If a proposed ordinance is passed, Eden Prairie would join three cities and one county in the state with such a ban, and it would be the first in the metropolitan area.
As with earlier debates about indoor smoking in Minnesota and across the country, the city is confronting issues that go beyond the long-recognized health risks of secondhand smoke.
"It's easy to be anti-smoking," said City Council member Sherry Butcher. "But the questions are bigger than that."
The intensity of the debate was clear at a forum the city council held last Tuesday. For 3 1/2 hours, about 100 people heard citizens talk about personal choice, competition, fairness, regulation and how far the government should go to protect the citizens' health. In all, 38 people spoke in favor of the ban, 19 opposed it.
The five-member council and Mayor Nancy Tyra-Lukens have not decided how they will proceed. Supporters and opponents expect any vote would be close.
Harris, who never smoked, had blamed her cancer on other people's smoke.
Before she died, she was interviewed for a video in which she described the years that she spent as a public-health physician in Virginia in smoke-filled board rooms and offices. It was shown to the City Council after her death.
"She used to say, 'I've never smoked -- but then I have, too, because of exposure to secondhand smoke,"' said her husband, Les Ellis.
Smoking-ban supporters have $200,000 to spend on campaigns in Eden Prairie and other Hennepin County communities thanks to a grant to the American Cancer Society from the Minnesota Partnership for Action Against Tobacco, a nonprofit group established with funds from the state's tobacco lawsuit settlement.
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