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Stronger Smoke-free Law Heads to SD Voters Next Week

October 25, 2010

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - They say it's up to voters now to "clear the air" in South Dakota. A law to make the state's bars, restaurants and casinos smoke-free was passed by lawmakers and signed by the governor, but it was referred for a vote by the people before it can be implemented. Referred Law 12, as it's called, is on next Tuesday's ballot.

Jennifer Stalley, director of government relations for the American Cancer Society, South Dakota chapter, manages the "Yes on 12" campaign. She says it doesn't ban smoking, it just restricts smoking indoors where people are working.

"To the workers in the bars and the restaurants - our waitresses, bartenders, video lottery clerks, blackjack dealers in Deadwood - we're saying it's just as important that you not be exposed to second-hand smoke, knowing what we know about the health hazards related to secondhand smoke exposure."

Polls have shown more than 60 percent support for the measure. Darcy Ellefson, a volunteer for the "Yes on 12" campaign in Sioux Falls, says that's in line with what she has been hearing in conversations with voters.

"You know, we border Minnesota and Iowa, and they both have smoking bans in place. People here are very anxious to follow suit and have clean air to breathe when they're out and about, patronizing the businesses in our community."

After the 2009 bill was signed to remove exemptions from the state's smoke-free laws for bars, restaurants and casinos, opponents led a petition drive to put the question before voters. They argue that a stronger ban infringes on private property rights and could be bad for some businesses in South Dakota. However, studies have shown that neighboring states with similar laws have seen little or no impact on business.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - SD