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SD Health Groups Push for More Local Tobacco Control

January 2, 2008

Pierre, SD – Sometimes it takes a village to clear the air. A coalition of South Dakota health groups says residents overwhelmingly support more smoke-free places, and insists it is a goal that could be accomplished more easily if local communities made their own tobacco laws.

Jennifer Stalley, project director for the South Dakota Tobacco Free Kids Network says the current state regulations make it difficult for local communities to control tobacco use in public places. She points to liquor stores and video lottery establishments, which are exempt from the state's smoke-free laws, as examples of workplaces that pose serious health risks from secondhand smoke.

"The other way to approach increasing the number of smoke-free places in South Dakota is to let local governments have an opportunity to regulate tobacco. Communities that say we want to be smoke-free or we want to address a tobacco problem would have the authority to do that, in conjunction with the state. The state would set the minimum level of protection and if a community chooses to, it could go above that."

Opponents say granting local control would create different tobacco regulations in different communities, making it difficult to comply. But Stalley says no other health issues are regulated solely by the legislature, and she feels it's time to put tobacco on the same playing field.

"Some communities may decide not to do anything. They may not be at the point where they want to do something locally. But there certainly seems to be no good reason to deny that opportunity to localities and local governments that want to do something."

Stalley is hopeful policymakers will give serious consideration to this shared authority of tobacco regulations. She adds this issue has been brewing for a long time, and warns that if legislators reject the idea of local control, it's possible a petition drive will begin, with the goal of taking the issue straight to South Dakota voters.

David Law/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - SD