Smoking ban amendment exempts bars, eateries
Columbus- Ohio's bar and restaurant owners hope to snuff out a proposed statewide smoking ban with their own, less restrictive policy on lighting up in public places.
Attorney General Jim Petro on Wednesday approved ballot language for the Ohio Licensed Beverage Association's constitutional amendment banning smoking in workplaces - but exempting bars, bowling alleys and restaurants with smoking sections.
It would also repeal the 21 local smoke-free ordinances, in places like Columbus and Toledo.
The beverage association now needs to collect 322,000 signatures by early August to get the amendment on the November ballot. It could rival a proposal in the works for a total public smoking ban.
"What we've heard from Ohioans is that they do want a choice. They do prefer some sort of proposal, just not an all-out ban," said Jacob Evans, a lobbyist for the beverage association.
Evans said a total smoking ban could cripple Ohio hospitality industry sales and spur job loss.
SmokeFreeOhio, a group backed by the American Cancer Society, began its campaign last fall. It, too, is gearing up to collect signatures to get its smoking ban - with no special exemptions - on the fall ballot.
While Evans worries about workers' jobs, Tracy Sabetta, co-chair of SmokeFreeOhio, worries about the rights of those employees to protect their health.
The amendment "would literally make it unconstitutional to protect them from secondhand smoke on the job," Sabetta said.
SmokeFreeOhio is trying to get on the ballot by the initiated statute process - which requires fewer signatures than the constitutional amendment route and would make its proposal a state law, if approved by voters.