SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – South Dakota voters on Election Day get the final say on a 2009 law that expands the state’s indoor smoking ban to bars, video lottery establishments and Deadwood casinos.
Lawmakers voted to extend the state’s current ban on smoking in most workplaces and public areas, but a coalition of bars and gambling businesses gathered enough signatures to put the law to a Nov. 2 statewide vote.
Don Rose, owner of Shenanigans Pub in Sioux Falls, said Referred Law 12 takes away the personal rights of business owners who choose to cater to customers who smoke.
“It’s about choice and freedom,” said Rose, spokesman for Citizens for Individual Freedom. “This extends the smoking ban but it doesn’t make South Dakota smoke-free. What it does is make my business smoke-free.”
But supporters say it’s a public safety issue, and that the measure will protect workers from secondhand smoke. The surgeon general in 2006 cited “overwhelming scientific evidence” that secondhand smoke exposure causes heart disease and lung cancer.
Jennifer Stalley, director of government relations for the American Cancer Society, said no one should have to be exposed to secondhand smoke where they’re earning a living.
“Our goal has never been just to ban something to ban it,” Stalley said. “Our goal has been to provide all employees with safe workplaces.”
The 2009 Legislature passed the expanded smoking ban to take effect on July 1, 2009. Owners of bars and casinos submitted petition signatures to refer it to a vote, but the matter went to court after Secretary of State Chris Nelson ruled that enough signatures were invalid to keep it off the ballot.
After a lengthy legal battle, a judge last November cleared the way for it to be put on the ballot.
Rose said he’s spent 25 years working in Shenanigans and has had no ill effects.
He said bars have to live up to Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards, and other options such as tighter OSHA standards or strict well-labeled smoking areas should be considered.
Stalley said those options were looked at by lawmakers but they decided a ban was the only way to keep workers safe.
Both sides have also cited financial effects of the ban.
Rose said South Dakota is already having trouble balancing its budget, and he expects a drop in state revenue if people are forced to go outside the bar to smoke or don’t show up at all.
Stalley said smoking bans are revenue neutral or positive for businesses, and the proposed law would reduce health care costs stemming from cancer, heart attacks and respiratory disease.
A “Yes” vote would broaden the state’s ban on smoking. A “No” vote would prevent the referred law from taking effect.
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