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Minnesota Lawmakers Consider Statewide Smoking Ban

January 26, 2007

Legislation introduced (Thursday) in the House and Senate would put a statewide ban on smoking in public places. Comments from Senate author Kathy Sheran (SHARE-an), DFL-Mankato, and reaction from Dr. John Wheeler, spokesman, Minnesota chapter, American Heart Association.

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers has introduced legislation to ban smoking in public places. Dr. John Wheeler with the American Heart Association in Minnesota says its time has come.

"The debate is over. Second-hand smoke is known to cause death and disease. In fact, it's the number one preventable cause of death and disease, not only from cancer, but from heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular disease as well."

He says people living or working around secondhand smoke have a thirty percent increased risk of fatal or nonfatal heart disease. Hearings on the bill are are scheduled to begin next week.

Wheeler says the bill would make Minnesota a healthier state.

"It ensures that citizens and workers are protected from the toxic effects of second-hand smoke, so that their health is not in jeopardy because of the place where they work or the places where they frequent for entertainment. It's a matter of not taking away smokers rights, but of actually restoring the rights of Minnesotan citizens to breathe clean air."

He says sixteen other states have bans like the one proposed here, and almost half of all states have some smoking restrictions. And, he says, most Minnesota residents approve a smoke-free policy.

Kathy Sheran is one of the sponsors of the proposal in the Minnesota Senate.

"We need this bill because 9-point-5 billion dollars of unnecessary health care costs to the public are occurring as an impact from second-hand smoke. We need this bill, because the Surgeon General has confirmed that there's no level of second-hand smoke that's safe for the public health. We also this because a substantially-high percentage of our population has recognized that this is a health hazard."

She says it eliminates smoking in indoor workplaces, including bars and restaurants, and on public transportation. Governor Pawlenty has expressed support, but says, perhaps, private clubs should be exempt.

A plan to put a statewide ban on smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants and workplaces, has been introduced at the State Capitol. Jim Wishner has reaction.

Sheran is at 296-6153. Wheeler is at 651-735-1805. Other sponsors are Rep. Tom Huntly (DFL-Duluth), Rep. Dan Severson (R-Sauk Rapids) and Sen. Steve Dille (R-Dassel). The American Heart Association Minnesota office contact is Elizabeth Warmka at 952-278-7919.

Jim Wishner/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - MN