Rochester business owners call for review of anti-smoking group
ROCHESTER, Minn. (AP) -- Hospitality business owners have asked the Olmsted County attorney to review lobbying by anti-smoking advocates who helped persuade the county board to ban smoking in restaurants.
The 52-member Rochester Lodging and Hospitality Association asked County Attorney Raymond Schmitz to determine whether proceeds from the state of Minnesota' s tobacco settlement can be used to influence public policy.
The association contends the funds should be used for programs that help smokers quit, not to bring smoking-ban campaigns before city councils or county boards. The Olmsted County ban, passed in November, went into effect Jan. 1.
In particular, the association complained about grants from the Minnesota Partnership for Action Against Tobacco and the Minnesota Health Department that were used to fund smoking-ban advocates in Olmsted County.
" MPAAT has funded numerous smoking ban efforts around the state and most have resulted in divisive battles splitting communities apart, " wrote association Chairman Mark Anderson, owner of the Holiday Inn South in Rochester.
Schmitz said his office will review the grant documents to see whether the activities of the smoking-ban advocates fell within the guidelines of the grants.
MPAAT' s lobbying activities also have been questioned by Attorney General Mike Hatch, who suggested last week that the organization focus its attention on helping smokers quit voluntarily.
MPAAT was formed with $202 million in public money from the state' s 1998 lawsuit against the tobacco industry. It' s directed by a court order to help Minnesota smokers quit.