New law bans smoking nearly everywhere

Minnesotans have been given "Freedom to Breathe." The legislative act protecting employees and the public from the health hazards of second hand smoke will become effective Oct. 1.

Minnesotans have been given "Freedom to Breathe." The legislative act protecting employees and the public from the health hazards of second hand smoke will become effective Oct. 1.

Secondhand smoke is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. According to the US Surgeon General, there is no safe level of secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke causes premature death and disease in children and adults who do not smoke.

The Freedom to Breathe (FTB) Act, an expansion of the current Minnesota Clean Air Act, extends secondhand smoke protections to customers and employees alike in virtually all indoor workplaces, including bars, restaurants and private clubs.

The legislation was enacted to avoid a patchwork of varying indoor smoking regulations in cities and counties. Local governments, however, are free to adopt and enforce more stringent regulations.

The state has asked public health officials to facilitate implementation. St. Joseph's Area Heath Services personnel will be contacting Hubbard County's 118 licensed food and beverage agencies personally and by mail with information on the "fresh air" act.


All businesses will be required by statute to display decals at entrances declaring, "This entire establishment is smoke-free."

The uniform "for the health of it" legislation is expected to assuage business owners' concerns about "crossing the river" to smoke, Chris Broeker, St. Joseph's community health manager, predicts.

Barred in bars

Under the current Minnesota law, smoking is permitted in some limited situations in the workplace. The FTB Act extinguished most of the exceptions.

n Smoking is currently allowed in places of work not frequented by the general public.

That's been snuffed. Smoking will be prohibited in all indoor places of work for more than one person.

n Smoking is currently permissible in private offices with the door closed.

Lighting up will be prohibited in all indoor places of work, including lunchrooms, lounges and offices.


n Smoking sections can now be designated in public places and at public meetings.

That too will be doused when the FTB Act becomes effective.

n Smoking is currently allowed in bars and private social functions.

The FTB Act requires bars to be smoke-free. Indoor private social functions must also be smoke-free if they serve as a place of employment for two or more people.

Smoking will be permitted on outdoor patios, but that can be regulated at the local level.

n Currently, meeting rooms, such as privately rented rooms in hotels, are public places where smoking sections may be designated.

The act requires all public places to be entirely smoke-free, "except under narrow circumstances."

Outdoors permissible


The law does not prohibit outdoor smoking, however, and imposes no distance requirements from doors and windows.

Smoking by approved scientific study participants is allowed and at traditional Native American ceremonies.

Smokers may light up in their homes and cars and sleeping rooms of hotels and motels.

Family farm buildings can be home to an ashtray as can farm trucks and other mobile equipment. Smoking will be allowed at the Disabled Veterans Rest Camp in Washington County and in rooms occupied by patients in locked psychiatric units.

Customers in tobacco shops can sample lit products.

And Sherlock Holmes can light his pipe. Theatrical performers may smoke as part of the performance.

A bit of 'kick ash' humor

Business owners will receive tips on how to help customers and employees comply.


n Become familiar with the law. Doing so will help you better communicate its requirements.

n Hold meetings, insert paycheck reminders and employee handouts.

n Remind employees that a positive mindset will help assure the law's acceptance.

n Make it clear to employees that failure to comply could result in fines and penalties.

Business owners - and smokers - who knowingly fail to comply could be found guilty of a petty misdemeanor. In addition, the Minnesota Department of Health has the authority to take enforcement actions that could include a fine of up to $10,000.

n Remind customers in advance of the law taking effect.

n Remove ashtrays.

n Post "no smoking" signs.


n Remind people who smoke to refrain and ask them to leave if they refuse.

n Use a bit of humor when confronting a cranky smoker. Laughter is the best medicine.

Fore more information on the Freedom to Breathe Act, head to .

Ready to quit?

The Minnesota Department of Health states smokers who die from tobacco-related disease, die an average of 12 years premature.

Add a decade to your life, and a considerable amount to your savings.

Minnesotans who want to snuff the habit can receive resources through QUITPLAN.

The free service offers a helpline where an individual talks to a counselor to create a personalized plan to quit. That may include free nicotine replacement therapy.


Centers in health care settings offer face-to-face counseling and nicotine replacement therapy.

And is an interactive Web site featuring encouragement forums and e-mails, self-evaluations and counselor assistance.

There should be a flame in your heart, not smoke in your lungs.

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