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Forum editorial: Stuff ballot with smoke and mirrors

Not to belabor the clich?, but Fargo residents should prepare for a lot of smoke and mirrors from special interests regarding the proposed smoking bans that likely will appear on the June city election ballot.

Not to belabor the cliché, but Fargo residents should prepare for a lot of smoke and mirrors from special interests regarding the proposed smoking bans that likely will appear on the June city election ballot.

Led by a Fargo businessman, who sincerely believes government should not interfere in his business practices, a well-funded effort is under way to confuse voters with competing ballot measures. The effort got sidetracked recently when the Fargo City Commission accepted a proposed ordinance that is essentially the same as existing city law (a smoking ban with a few exceptions). So nothing has changed, and that measure will not be on the ballot. But the

anti-ban forces are unlikely to blow away in the prairie wind. They likely will slightly modify the first version of their smoking ban and get the new one on the June ballot.

Meanwhile, petitions are being circulated by a coalition of individuals and organizations seeking a no-exemptions citywide smoking ban, much like the statewide ban that went into effect this fall in Minnesota. It's almost a certainty that measure will be approved for the ballot, in large part because the majority of Fargoans (like people everywhere) favor a total ban on smoking and secondhand smoke.

The anti-ban forces know that no-exemption smoking bans have passed easily wherever they've been on a ballot. And it's hardly news anymore when legislatures pass statewide smoking bans. Lawmakers who respond to their public constituency rather than

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special-interest lobbies (most North Dakota lawmakers are in the latter category on this issue) vote for comprehensive smoking bans.

So it's no surprise that anti-ban forces in Fargo are in desperation mode regarding a proposed citywide no-exceptions ban. Anything they can do to delay the inevitable, they will do. An attempt to confuse city voters with competing smoking ban proposals is a clever strategy, but it's likely to fail in the end.

We say "an attempt to confuse" because the smoking ban debate has evolved sufficiently so that an attempt to confuse won't succeed among informed voters. Most voters no longer buy the argument that smoking bans infringe on rights. The issue has become primarily a matter of public health. There is no question about the health dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke. Government has a role in public health, so the overwhelming majority of the public supports smoking bans.

At this point, it looks like at least two smoking ban ordinances will be on the June city ballot. One will be a no-exceptions comprehensive prohibition. The other will be a slight modification of existing city law to allow specific exemptions. If that's the ballot scenario, Fargo voters, who have just about had it with smoke-and-mirrors ruses from the anti-ban crowd, will easily approve a no-exemptions ban.

Today's issue:

Look for competing smoking bans on June Fargo ballot.

Our position:

Voters no longer will be fooled by anti-ban special interests.

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Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.

Forum editorial: Stuff ballot with smoke and mirrors 20071111

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