Columbus smoking ban could be headed back to ballot

The Columbus smoking ban could be going back before the voters. Bar and restaurant owners Wednesday turned petitions to force the issue back on the ballot. The new question, if passed, would exempt bars from the smoking ban.

Just like they did last summer when they forced a vote on the smoking ordinance, ban opponents stacked up their petitions at the city clerk’s office.

Bar owners and others smoking ban opponents say they collected about 12 thousand signatures of registered voters. More than double the number they need to get an amended smoking ban on the may ballot.

About 50 bar owners and their supporters were on hand for the petition delivery. The spokesman for the bar owners group, attorney Phil Harmon, says the ban hurts business, and violates the freedom of smokers and bar owners.

The ban which went into effect this week bans smoking in all public places, but exempts private clubs.

If the amended ban question makes it on to the ballot, voters would be asked to allow smoking in businesses that earn at least 65 percent of their revenues from alcohol. That would exempt mainly bars from the ban.

Doctor Robert crane, who helped lead the fight for the smoking ban says bars should not be exempt for the health of bartenders and cocktail waitresses.

The smoking ban won by a comfortable 55 to 45 percent margin. Dr. Crane says putting the issue on the ballot is a waste of time and taxpayer money.

Ban opponent Phil Harmon they are asking voters to look at the issue differently.

Smoking ban opponents look to the city of Toledo for inspiration. Toledo voters in November amended that city’s new smoking ban to exempt most bars, bowling alleys and bingo halls.