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City council can close smoking loophole

Kelly Buettner-Schmidt, executive director for Healthy Communities International at Minot State University, offered encouragement to members of the Kenmare Tobacco-Free Coalition during their meeting February 14th.

3/07/12 (Wed)

By Caroline Downs

Kelly Buettner-Schmidt, executive director for Healthy Communities International at Minot State University, offered encouragement to members of the Kenmare Tobacco-Free Coalition during their meeting February 14th.

“Even though it’s a struggle, the work you do is really, really important,” she told the group.

Members of the coalition needed to hear those words, after slightly discouraging news from the Kenmare City Council meeting held the previous night. Coalition member Barb Scherbenske attended that session and reported council members had started receiving postcards signed by Kenmare business patrons asking the council to enact an ordinance that would prohibit smoking in all public places in the community, including bars.

Nearly all of the 500 cards printed for the occasion were prepared for mailing. “Once we got going, I even had people come in asking for them,” said Coalition member Pauline Nielsen.

Scherbenske said the council members spoke about the postcards, but still recommended the city council do nothing to approve a proposed smoke-free ordinance. They voiced their intention to leave it to the Coalition to list the ordinance for approval by voters on the June election ballot. “They said the bar owners aren’t coming forward to request this,” added Scherbenske.

“The bar owners are the ones who are going to be regulated by this,” said Buettner-Schmidt. “[Citizens] don’t vote on clean water. You don’t vote on public health. Why would you vote on clean air?”

Buettner-Schmidt described efforts by a new tobacco-free coalition established in Linton to enact a smoke-free ordinance for the town, including newspaper advertising, a billboard, endorsements from several local organizations and a public presentation that attracted about 40 people. She also noted Kulm has joined Kenmare and Linton as one of the smaller towns in the state to seek a smoke-free ordinance.

Coalition member Ruth Ganes expressed concern about health effects, especially related to heart disease, associated with secondhand smoke. Ganes said she became aware of information from the American Heart Association as she prepared programs for the Go Red for Women Day on February 3rd. “What surprises me are the numbers of relatively young women exposed to secondhand smoke who are heart attack survivors,” she said. “I don’t have to go to these [bars and truck stops], but it’s not that easy for some people if they need a job and they have to work.”

“The city council needs to protect our communities from secondhand smoke right now and in the future,” said Buettner-Schmidt. “Look at the way this part of the state is growing. What if someone came in and built a new bar, a casino or a truck stop in Kenmare? The council can close the loophole in state lay by saying, ‘We want to protect our kids, our families and our workers.’”

Next meeting March 13th
The next meeting of the Kenmare Tobacco-Free Coalition will take place Tuesday, March 13, 2012, beginning at noon at the South of the Border restaurant.

Information about the Kenmare Tobacco Free Coalition is posted online at www.tobaccofreeKenmare.com. Persons who are interested in the Coalition’s activities are welcome to contact Pauline Nielsen at 701-385-4907 or Barb Scherbenske at 701-385-4412.