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Minnesota Goes Smoke-Free—Is South Dakota Next?

October 8, 2007

Pierre SD – Smoke-free advocates in South Dakota are watching how a week-old indoor smoking ban in Minnesota will succeed in ending exposure to second-hand smoke. Minnesota became the 17th to enact a statewide ban on smoking in bars and restaurants last week when the "Freedom to Breathe Act" became law.

Jennifer Stalley with the South Dakota Tobacco Free Kids Network is hopeful South Dakota will follow Minnesota’s lead. She says there’s no reason some are protected from secondhand smoke while others are not.

"South Dakota has a very high population of folks who are working two jobs. Many are waitresses and bartenders and there isn’t a choice for them to be in a smoking or non-smoking environment. We believe the comprehensive approach to a smoke-free state protects all people."

The state’s current smoke-free law passed in 2002, but exempted bars and restaurants with an alcohol license.

"The South Dakota legislature in 2002 took this issue on and it was a good first step. But, we went from being a leader in addressing the issue to now being a follower. Other states are passing us at a very rapid rate. Our legislature needs to address this issue head on by providing smoke-free workplaces and public places, both for the workers and the customers who patronize them."

The Surgeon General’s latest report shows there’s no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke and Stalley says sitting in a room where someone is smoking can have serious health consequences.

"The theory that there are smoking and non-smoking sections in restaurants is wrong. Air does not know the difference between a smoking and non-smoking section. If you’re in a restaurant that allows smoking, you are breathing secondhand smoke as a patron. And if you’re working in an establishment that has a non-smoking and smoking section, it doesn’t matter if the only tables you wait on are in the non-smoking section. You’re still being exposed to secondhand smoke."

Those opposing stronger smoking laws say expanding the law represents government meddling into private business. But Stalley disagrees, saying it’s important everyone is guaranteed a smoke-free workplace.

David Law/John Robinson, Public News Service - SD