Get ready area restaurants, because you know it's coming, and it probably will arrive sooner than later.
''It'' refers to a growing number of cities statewide examining ordinances that ban smoking in restaurants. Moose Lake passed one that takes effect Aug. 1. Duluth approved one last week effective Jan. 1. New Prague is debating one.
It's likely only a matter of time until St. Cloud and other Central Minnesota cities -- or even the state -- tackle this issue. After all, it's been 25 long years since the state passed its indoor clean air act. It's clearly time for an update.
Whether Duluth's ordinance deserves praise is yet to be seen. It builds in many safeguards to help restaurants, particularly bars, not lose business.
It exempts bars, bowling alleys and pool halls. Restaurants with liquor or wine and beer licenses can allow smoking from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Smoking is not allowed in all other restaurants, unless they have an enclosed smoking room separated by a wall and closing door, which can compose only 30 percent of a restaurant's total seating area.
Restaurants that lose 15 percent of sales in one month or 10 percent of sales after two consecutive months of complying with the ordinance can apply for an exemption.
Opponents of smoking already have assailed the ordinance for its exceptions and weak language in holding owners accountable.
No ordinance should be needed because people and businesses should realize the dangers of smoking, especially secondhand smoke, and not put others at risk.
But this is the real world, and if regulations are needed, they should strive to protect all people without punishing those trying to serve both sides.
After all, business owners can do little to control a person's right to smoke, even if that is the unhealthy choice.
--St. Cloud Times
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