Olmsted County board OKs workplace smoking ban

Smoking outside
Indoor smoking bans in communities around Minnesota have forced smokers outdoors when they want to light up.
MPR file photo/Tom Robertson

(AP) - Olmsted County commissioners have approved a workplace smoking ban that includes bars and public transportation.

After a meeting at the Mayo Civic Center lasting more than four hours, commissioners approved the ban on a 5-2 vote Tuesday night.

Besides bars, the new ordinance also makes taxis, limos and shuttle buses smoke-free. The ban goes into effect June 1. Businesses could face criminal charges if they don't enforce the new ban.

Opponents think the ban will hurt businesses in Olmsted County.

Commission Jim Bier voted against the ban.

"Some of my representation is the city of Byron, and I think that out in Byron people will leave Byron and go out to Kasson probably to do their business," he said. "I think it's going to have a negative impact on the businesses in Byron."

While some officials said businesses might feel an initial effect, others believe the new ordinance will boost efforts for a statewide smoking ban.

"The word that I've got from the Legislature, as I've talked to them, is we need your support," said Commissioner Judy Ohly, who supported the ordinance. "Pass this so we can move forward."

Commissioners also changed the buffer zone of how close a person can smoke to a workplace, to 15 feet from 25 feet.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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