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Columbus voters will decide on smoking ban issue Thursday, August 26, 2004 By DAN EATON ThisWeek Staff Writer On Nov. 2, Columbus voters will have their say on a possible indoor smoking ban. Columbus City Council approved an ordinance sending the SmokeFree Indoor Air Act to the ballot last week. "The people said very clearly that they want to weigh in on this issue," said Councilwoman Charleta Tavares, who led council's effort to pass the issue. "The people will make their decision and we'll abide by whatever that decision is." On June 28, council voted 5-1 on an indoor smoking ban that prohibited smoking in all public buildings, including restaurants, bars and bowling alleys. The Coalition to Can the Ban, the main organization opposing the ban, submitted more than 14,000 signatures of registered voters to the Franklin County Board of Elections. Just under 5,000 valid signatures -- 5 percent of the number of voters in the November 2003 election -- were needed in order to get the referendum on the fall ballot. Last week, the election board announced that Can the Ban had gathered enough signatures. It was council's responsibility to officially place the issue on the ballot. Tavares said she remains a staunch supporter of council's passage of the indoor smoking ban and she will be actively involved in the campaign to support it. "The act is critically important," she said. "What we want to do is reduce the number of deaths that can be avoided. This is not a ban on smoking. People can still smoke if they want to. They'll just have to do it outside." Several amendments were made to the act passed by council, including: allowing smoking on patios, eliminating a proposed 20-foot, no-smoking perimeter around buildings and exemptions for private clubs and smoke shops. The SmokeFree Columbus Coalition presented the original ordinance to city council. Because that organization is supported by grants that prohibit it from being involved with ballot issues, it will not be campaigning on behalf of the ban. Instead, a political action committee named Citizens for a SmokeFree Columbus has been organized to promote the smoking ban. Council's ordinance was set to go into effect on Sept. 26. The intent was to give suburbs the opportunity to pass similar ordinances. Marie Collart, co-chair of SmokeFree Columbus, said the organization will continue its education efforts, visiting suburban communities and encouraging them to take action, as well. So far, Powell has been the only community to follow Columbus and pass an indoor smoking ban. Dr. Rob Crane, co-chair of SmokeFree Columbus, said the group's goal was to have Columbus pass a ban and three suburbs in discussions about bans by the end of the year, goals the group has exceeded already. Collart said members of SmokeFree Columbus have met with Bexley, Grandview Heights, Upper Arlington and Worthington representatives and all legislation has been proposed in all three cities that could be voted on before the November election. Meanwhile, Dublin has tabled ban legislation until after the Columbus vote. Grove City, Hilliard, Pickerington, Westerville and Whitehall are among communities considering the issue, while Gahanna and Reynoldsburg have ruled out bans. The Coalition to Can the Ban can be contacted at (614) 224-3840. Citizens for SmokeFree Columbus can be reached at (614) 341-6439.


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