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Smoking ban vote possible in Fargo

A smoke-free ordinance for bars and restaurants could be in front of the Fargo City Commission by September if a health board votes to support it today.

A smoke-free ordinance for bars and restaurants could be in front of the Fargo City Commission by September if a health board votes to support it today.

The ordinance, as proposed by a 65-member area anti-tobacco coalition, would prevent smoking in all bars and restaurants.

Today, coalition members will present information regarding smoking and second-hand smoke's effects to the Fargo Cass Public Health board.

"This is the first step," said Linda Kohls, director of Fargo's American Cancer Society.

"We're doing the groundwork, to show how great the damage is not only to smokers," but to nonsmokers as well, she said.


The goal is for Fargo, Moorhead, West Fargo and Dilworth to pass smoke-free ordinances at about the same time, said Rich Fenno, Fargo Cass Public Health's tobacco control coordinator.

The group will present various surveys, including one released in the past couple of days which showed 69 percent of those polled in favor of the ordinance and 28 percent opposed, he said.

The survey, conducted by Harstad Strategic Research Inc. and commissioned by area health organizations, included 150 randomly chosen registered voters in Fargo and was done July 7-14, Fenno said.

Fargo Mayor Bruce Furness said he has no concerns about banning smoking in restaurants, but that such a ban in bars is different.

"If people want to go into a bar and smoke, I think maybe they should have that right," Furness said.

People can choose whether to go to bars and no kids are allowed, he said.

The tricky part will be legally determining the difference between a bar and restaurant, since most bars also serve food, Furness said.

But Kohls said it's equally important to ban smoking in bars.


"Part of it is to protect the rights of workers," she said.

It's not fair to say second-hand smoke has to be part of working at a bar, Kohls said.

Secondhand smoke exposure increases the risk of lung cancer, nasal sinus cancer, death from heart disease and eye and nose irritation, a 1999 National Institutes of Health study shows.

Asked his opinion on a smoking ban in bars, bar manager Dan Turner said, "I think that's pretty idiotic myself, and I don't smoke."

There have been two non-smoking bars in Fargo and neither of them is still around, said Turner, manager of The Nestor, 1001 NP Ave., Fargo.

"This is a free country," he said. People "should have a choice. Why should anybody take away a right?"

Fargo bartender Mare Leonhart said the Penalty Box, 1025 38th St. S.W., would go out of business if the ordinance went into effect.

"Looking around at everyone here, everyone's smoking except for two people," Leonhart said.


Fenno said studies have shown smoking bans to have no negative effect on business.

"There's tons of objective data out there whether (the ordinance) has a negative impact," Fenno said.

If businesses had access to all the studies, "it would be a no-brainer," he said.

Kylie Brogran, who works at Pepper's American Café and Sports Bar, said she would support a ban of smoking in restaurants.

"It would be healthier," she said. "I think it would attract more customers."

She thinks a smoking ban would increase business in restaurants but have the opposite effect in bars.

If an ordinance is passed, Furness said he wants it to be the same throughout the metropolitan area.

"I think it's going to be a controversial issue," Furness said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Lisa Schneider at (701) 241-5529

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