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With 138 surveys returned, the attitude toward a smoke-free Kenmare came through clearly: 81.4 percent of the respondents favored a law in Kenmare that would prohibit smoking in all indoor public places.
The survey was conducted by the First District Health Unit for two weeks in April as members of the Kenmare Tobacco-Free Coalition examined local interest in establishing a smoke-free policy for the community.
More specifically, 76.9 of the respondents strongly favored the smoking prohibition, while another 4.5 percent somewhat favored the prohibition.
“We had 80 percent support,” said Holly Brekhus, community outreach coordinator with FDHU Tobacco Prevention. “That’s astounding! And we know we had some smokers filling the survey out.”
According to the survey results, 29.9 percent of the respondents were former smokers, while 8.8 percent described themselves as current smokers. Of the surveys returned, 52.6 percent of the respondents said they had never used any tobacco products.
The percentage of respondents who wanted to see a statewide law prohibiting smoking in all indoor public places mirrored the support for a local law at 80.6 percent.
Only 14.9 percent of the survey respondents claimed strong opposition to a local law, while 17.2 percent declared themselves strongly opposed to a statewide smoke-free policy.
While most local businesses and public places currently follow the smoking ban implemented by the
For the Kenmare survey, 88 percent of the respondents noted they go out to the local bars, with 10.4 percent saying they never visit the bars. If smoking were no longer allowed in the local bars, 90.1 percent of the respondents said they would visit the bars the same amount or more often.
The top reason listed for visiting the local bars was socializing, named in 56 percent of the surveys. Another 32.8 percent of the surveys gave the bar’s menu or food as the main purpose for going.
Brekhus further analyzed the numbers for bar and club visits. She learned that of the 29.3 percent of respondents who said they visit a bar less than once per month now, 61.5 of them indicated they would go out more often if the bars were smoke-free.
Of the 15.8 percent of respondents who get out to the bars about once a month, 57.1 percent said they would go more often to smoke-free establishments.
Nearly all the respondents, at 82.8 percent, agreed that everyone’s rights to breathing clean air could be protected without having a negative impact on business.
“If you’re a business, you’re responsible for minimum safety standards,” said Brekhus. “We don’t tell people, ‘If you don’t want to be killed by a drunk driver, stay off that highway,’ or ‘If you don’t want salmonella, stay out of that restaurant.’ We have laws about [those situations] to protect people. Secondhand smoke is a health issue like these other things.”
Concern about health risks,
youth tobacco use
The vast majority of the surveys indicated the respondents were aware of the health risks from tobacco use. Over 95 percent of the respondents described exposure to secondhand smoke as a health hazard, while 96.9 percent believed youth should not smoke or chew tobacco.
A majority of respondents recognized that local youth have access to cigarettes or chewing tobacco, with 65.9 percent saying it was not difficult for kids to get their hands on tobacco products.
Among the respondents, 53.9 percent described smoking by youth under the age of 18 as a serious concern, while another 41.4 percent named it a moderate concern. Smoking by adults was listed as a serious concern by 52.7 percent of respondents and a moderate concern by another 33.3 percent.
Most of the survey respondents agreed that raising the price of tobacco products would reduce use among people of all ages, with 75.9 percent favoring an increase in the state tobacco tax.
Women return most
surveys, ages vary
The survey results were dominated by women with 71.5 percent of the surveys completed by females, compared to 28.5 percent by males.
Most of the respondents were adults over the age of 21, with 26.3 percent of them between the ages of 55-64. People ages 21-34 made up 22.6 percent of the respondents, while those ages 65 and older made up 21.9 percent.
Two individuals between the ages of 18 and 20 completed the survey.
The majority of surveys were completed by residents living within the city limits, at 60.6 percent. Rural Kenmare residents made up the next largest group of respondents at 24.8 percent.
Next steps toward
Members of the Kenmare Tobacco-Free Coalition were encouraged by the survey results and started reviewing model smoke-free policies to discuss with the city council’s Health Committee. Brekhus noted the ordinance should be tailored to Kenmare’s needs and consider current policies at places such as the nursing homes and local motels.
Brekhus said she would contact Terese Skjordal of the Kenmare City Council regarding a meeting with the Health Committee. Other members include Todd Ankenbauer and Troy Hedberg. The Coalition members will prepare a smoke-free ordinance to be considered by and discussed with the committee.
The next meeting of the Kenmare Tobacco-Free Coalition will be Tuesday, May 24th, at 12 noon at the Kenmare Fire Hall. Anyone interested in helping establish a smoke-free policy for the community’s public places, or to help with preparing information about the benefits of smoke-free laws to be made available at upcoming community events, is invited to attend.
FDHU public health nurse Melissa Burud reminded Coalition members about the importance of raising the topic of smoke-free public places in Kenmare, given the number of phone calls and complaints her office has received on the matter. “People bring their concerns about this to us,” she said.
“We know this is an emotional topic,” added Renae Byre, Director of Tobacco Prevention with FDHU. “But there are more and more people from out of state who are coming to town, and they’re used to non-smoking public places.”
For more information about the Kenmare Tobacco-Free Coalition, contact Barb Scherbenske at 701-385-4412 or Pauline Nielsen at 701-385-4907.