Thirty local people volunteered their time to help gather the 13,452 signatures required state-wide to put an initiated measure on the general election ballot in November. Valley City petitioners collected almost 700 of the more than 21,000 signatures that were sent to Secretary of State Al Jaeger’s office for approval on August 2.
“That’s seven or eight thousand signatures more than required collected in just six weeks; this spread just like a prairie fire,” Vicki Voldal Rosenau, tobacco coordinator for City-County Health District and supporter of the measure said.
Petitioners started collecting signatures the end of June after the initiated measure, proposed by a group called Smoke Free North Dakota, was approved. Names were gathered in every county in the state.
She thinks the large amount of signatures were collected because “nearly everyone knows that the scientific evidence clearly shows that secondhand smoke causes serious diseases and premature death among nonsmokers.”
If approved by voters this fall, the measure will close existing loopholes in North Dakota’s current smoke-free law, so that all of the state’s indoor workplaces and public places will be free of smoke.
Currently, smoking is still allowed in bars, special rooms in truck stops and some hotel rooms.
Cindy Spino, a local petitioner, said she started collecting signatures because she worked in a place where smoking is allowed and she would prefer for it not to be.
Mary Simonson, executive director of the Open Door Center and supporter of the measure said, “We look forward to a smokeless North Dakota and heathy citizens.”
Voldal Rosenau noted that many of the same Valley City residents who are supporting the 2012 smoke-free initiative also volunteered many hours of hard work to implement a related initiated measure four years ago.
In 2008 North Dakota voters approved Measure 3, which requires that a portion of the state’s “tobacco settlement payments” be used as originally intended: for effective tobacco prevention, cessation and education.
Last April, the City-County Health District released results of a local scientific poll showing that 79 percent of Valley City adults are in favor of a comprehensive law to protect people from secondhand smoke in all indoor workplaces. Polls conducted in numerous other North Dakota communities indicate similar levels of public support.