Measure 4 Causes Mixed Emotions
The passage of North Dakota Measure 4 on Tuesday will end smoking in or near most public places including bars, motels, and places of employment leaving mixed emotions among local bar owners.
The law, not only prohibits smoking inside most public places, but also outdoors within 20 feet of the entrance. Violation of the law carries a $50 fine for the first infraction, up to $200 for the second infraction within a year of the previous infraction, and $500 for each infraction after the second within a year of the previous infraction.
“It’s sacrilegious that vets can’t smoke in their own clubs!” said Mark Boom, owner of Boomer’s Corner Keg in Valley City.
Boom believes that veterans should be able to smoke in their own clubs since they fought for their country’s freedom. Boom also believes that business will drop in bars all over North Dakota. He has a lot of “bar smokers” as patrons, and many of them have already said they will stay home and drink where they can also have a cigarette, he said.
“I have five or six guys that have built ‘man caves’ just for that,” Boom said. “A lot of people will just sit in the garage and drink instead of going to town.”
Michelle Brendemoen, owner of the Ram in Valley City sees things differently. Since it’s going to be in every business, it won’t hurt one business more than another, she believes. The Ram has outdoor space where she hopes to place an outdoor heater behind her bar so patrons will still have a place to smoke, even in cold weather.
Boom, however, doesn’t have that option he said. Since the law prohibits smoking within 20 feet of public building entrances, he won’t be able to provide patrons with a smoking area because his building is too close to the street and he has no space behind the bar.
If owners of public buildings wish to build smoking shelters, the shelter must not have more than 33 percent wall (including windows) surrounding the enclosure.
According to Vicki Rosenau, Barnes County Public Health Department’s Tobacco Prevention Coordinator, the passage of Measure 4 has been building for years. Pushes for smoking cessation in public automatically happen when the public learns that smoking is the number one cause of sickness and preventable death and costs taxpayer dollars to provide health care for smoking-related illnesses, and North Dakota was no different than many other states when the new law passed by nearly 67 percent.
“You just about couldn’t stop it,” Rosenau said of the statewide drive to end smoking in public places.
Roseneau also believes the new law will not hurt North Dakota businesses, including bars. Independent research shows that, based on sales tax revenue, income does not drop after anti-smoking laws are passed. In fact, said Rosenau, sometimes income actually goes up.
To help business owners and smokers comply with the law, which goes into effect on Thursday, Dec. 6, Breathe North Dakota, the organization that helped spearhead the movement for the anti-smoking law, will mail packages of educational material and sinage samples to business affected by the law. In addition, the Barnes County Public Health Department will also have access to the Breath North Dakota information and more.
For more information about the law contact Roseneau at 845-8595 or Breathe North Dakota at www.breathenorthdakota.com.