Smoke 'em if you got 'em, because in less than a month there will be a lot fewer places where smoking will be allowed.
When Gov. Tim Pawlenty in May signed into law the Freedom to Breathe Act - effective Oct. 1 - its provisions mean the end to smoking in virtually all public places and indoor places of employment in Minnesota. That includes bars, restaurants and private clubs - places most often associated with smoking in public.
Mike McFarland, owner of Paul Bunyan Bowl in Baxter, has fought smoking bans at the local, county and state levels. Having lost the fight, he's decided to make his bowling leagues, which started Tuesday, smoke-free before the Oct. 1 ban. He said he's spent about $10,000 to advertise that fact.
On Oct. 1, smoking will be prohibited in virtually all indoor public places and indoor places of improvement, including:
Bars, restaurants and private clubs.
Office and industrial workplaces.
Common areas of rental apartment buildings, hotels and motels.
Public transportation, including taxis.
Work vehicles if more than one person is present.
Home offices with one or more on-site employees, or used as a place to meet or deal with customers.
Public and private educational facilities.
Auditoriums, arenas and meeting rooms.
Day care premises.
Health care facilities and clinics.
Source: Minnesota Department of Health
The Freedom to Breathe law does not prohibit smoking in the following locations or circumstances:
Outdoors, regardless of distance from building openings such as doors and windows.
Approved scientific study participants.
Traditional Native American ceremonies.
Private places, such as residences or automobiles when they are not being used as places of employment.
Sleeping rooms of hotels and motels.
Tobacco product shops when customers are sampling tobacco products.
Cabs of commercial motor vehicles that weigh more than 26,000 pounds.
Farm trucks, implements of husbandry and special mobile equipment.
Family farm buildings, provided certain conditions are met.
Disabled Veterans Rest Camp in Washington County.
Theatrical productions in which actors who are smoking are part of the theatrical performance.
Source: Minnesota Department of Health
Still, McFarland is not happy about the smoking ban. Five teams from his men's bowling league didn't return because of the smoking ban and only one team signed up because of it.
Larry Austad enjoyed a cigarette recently at the Moose Lodge in downtown Brainerd. On Oct. 1 smoking will be prohibited in bars, restaurants and clubs across Minnesota. Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
"I know the smoking ban is going to be bad for business for me for a while. I know I'm going to lose business," McFarland said. "My main principle for fighting this is cigarettes are legal - legal to have, legal to sell - and they're coming in as a government authority and telling us people can't smoke in here. I've fought it as a freedom issue."
At the Moose Lodge in Brainerd, manager Tari Johnson, said her customers are split when it comes to the smoking ban. And though the ban is statewide, she believes it will negatively affect business.
"Customers can't go anywhere else then, but I'm still pretty floored they did this," Johnson said. "I'm a smoker. I'm going to have to go outside now, too, but I guess you got to do what you got to do."
At the Pit Stop Bar in downtown Brainerd, employee Belinda Witthuhn estimated about 90 percent of the bar's patrons are smokers. Like the others, she said she is not pleased with the smoking ban because she believes business will drop significantly.
"People, when they go to bars, they want to stop for beer after work and have a cigarette," Witthuhn said. "Now they'll just go home, have that beer at home where they can have that cigarette. If their goal was to get everybody to stop smoking, they're not going to do it that way. This is going to hurt us a lot."
Babe's Lounge bowling team of Bryan Bassett (left), Ron Gilbert, Brad Miller and Paul Bunyan Bowl owner Mike McFarland enjoyed a drink Wednesday during league bowling. McFarland, though against the smoking ban, made bowling league nights smoke-free weeks ahead of the Oct. 1 smoking ban date. Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls» Purchase reprints of this photo.
Witthuhn believes it should be the choice of each bar owner whether to go smoke-free or not.
"(Danny Kuhn) owns the building, he pays his taxes. He should be able to do whatever he wants in his bar," she said.
Not all businesses see a down side to the smoking ban.
Three months ago Famous Dave's restaurant in Baxter went smoke-free and assistant general manager Brian Trettel said business has improved. Not just restaurant business but bar business, too.
"We've found out that a lot of people kind of want the bar atmosphere but still want to enjoy food. They've appreciated not having a smoker next to their table," Trettel said.
The smoking ban was signed into law by Pawlenty to protect employees and the public from the health hazards of secondhand smoke. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, secondhand smoke is a leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.
Businesses will have to post no smoking signs, ask people who are smoking to stop or leave if they refuse, refrain from providing ashtrays and refuse to serve non-compliant people. Businesses will be monitored for compliance by the state health department and local law enforcement agencies can issue petty misdemeanor citations for businesses or individuals who don't comply.
Outdoor smoking is still allowed, regardless of distance from building openings such as doors or windows. McFarland said he has considered building a porch area outside of his bowling alley, but said local ordinances would make that difficult. Johnson anticipates entrances to bars and clubs will be packed with smokers.
Even other types of businesses where smoking is common are getting a head start on the ban. The Corporate Commission of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians is increasing its non-smoking areas at Grand Casino Mille Lacs and related properties as of Sept. 15.
The increased non-smoking areas will include the convention center, meeting rooms, hotel lobbies and restaurants. The child care and arcade areas, among others, are already non-smoking areas.
"We are always looking for ways to improve our facilities and services," said Sarah Oquist, commissioner of Corporate Affairs for the Mille Lacs Band, in a news release. "Increasing our non-smoking areas is a decision we feel is good for our guests and our businesses."
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5857.
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