Toledo Smoking Ban Foes Paved Way for Columbus Counterparts

In two weeks, Columbus voters will be asked to do what Toledo voters did in November – change the city’s smoking ban.

Toledo voters chose to exempt bars from the city’s smoking ordinance – the same option that appears before Columbus voters on May 3rd.

What is happening in Columbus is nearly a repeat of what Toledo went through over the past 2 years. Both cities imposed a smoking ban and then moved to amend it to exclude bars. Toledo changed the ban. Many bar owners in Columbus hope to do the same

In July 2003, Toledo city council imposed a city wide smoking ordinance. Smoking was banned in restaurants and bars. The only option for restaurant owners was to build a completely separate smoking room with its own ventilation system.

Bar owner Bill Delaney and others fumed. They collected signatures put a question on the November ballot. Toledo voters by narrow margin agreed to exempt bars and bowling alleys.

Delaney says voters believed government went too far.

The primary reason was government intervention. They (voters) knew the community would lose jobs and would lose income and I think they were smarter than the politicians, Delaney said.

Stu Kerr, from the group Tobacco Free Ohio agrees ban opponents ran an effective campaign connecting the ban to the loss of jobs.

We’ve had a recession here and their campaign slogan was Protect Jobs.’ The confused the voters. Kerr said.

The Toledo story differ somewhat from the Columbus story. This is the second time Columbus voters will decide the issue. In November, they upheld the city council approved smoking ban; and the vote was not close.

Toledo residents only voted on the issue once. It only partially overturned the ban and the vote was close.

Bill Delaney says his group considered going for an outright repeal of the ban in November but decided against it for practical reasons.

The restaurants were not behind us, he said.

Delaney says had Columbus voters had the choice of an amended smoking ban, they would have approved it, They lost because they went for the whole thing. They did not compromise.

Kerr, predicts the opposite, he says Columbus voters will again uphold the straight forward ordinance.

Kerr says their fight in Toledo is over. His group and other smoking ban supporters instead are focusing on a statewide smoking ban, and like Toledo, the Columbus vote May third could prove to be a test case as state lawmakers consider banning smoking in every bar and restaurant in Ohio.

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