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Smoke-Free North Dakota submits signatures for ballot measure

Members of the Kenmare Tobacco-Free Coalition celebrated the successful statewide efforts to collect over 20,000 signatures in 43 days to get an initiated smoke-free measure on the November ballot.

8/15/12 (Wed)

By Caroline Downs

Members of the Kenmare Tobacco-Free Coalition celebrated the successful statewide efforts to collect over 20,000 signatures in 43 days to get an initiated smoke-free measure on the November ballot.

The Smoke-Free North Dakota committee submitted the necessary signatures to the Secretary of State’s office for review and approval on August 2nd. The measure would make all indoor public places and places of employment across the state, including bars, smoke-free.

Volunteer efforts to collect signatures surpassed the 13,452 signatures required to get the initiated measure on the ballot. Members of the Kenmare Coalition gathered signatures locally during Pioneer Day at Pioneer Village and the Association of Commerce’s Customer Appreciation event. Some members also participated in signature collection activities during the North Dakota State Fair.

According to Holly Brekhus, First District Health Unit Tobacco Prevention Unit community outreach coordinator, Ward County volunteers collected approximately 2,900 signatures. Of those signatures, about 300 were turned in by Kenmare Coalition members.

During their August 7th meeting, Kenmare Coalition members noted they heard negative comments from State Fair visitors about smoking at the fairgrounds, even in areas where smoking is permitted. Brekhus suggested those complaints about smoking be directed to the State Fair office itself. “The State Fair has a website where people can leave their comments,” she said.

The Smoke-Free North Dakota committee organized volunteers and coordinated signature gathering events across the state. “Thanks to the hard work of North Dakota’s tobacco prevention program, North Dakotans understand the health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke,” said Chelsey Matter, chairperson for the Smoke-Free North Dakota committee. “It’s clear from the large number of signatures that North Dakotans strongly support a smoke-free law that protects everyone’s right to breathe clean air.”

More steps for Kenmare group
With the signature petitions completed, Kenmare Coalition members will continue to educate area residents about the initiated smoke-free measure. Barb Scherbenske planned to attend the Kenmare City Council meeting on August 13th to describe the measure for council members, review the documented support for a smoke-free workplace ordinance in Kenmare, and answer questions about the issue from council members.

Pauline Nielsen volunteered to provide information about the initiated measure at a booth during the annual Kenmare Toy Show scheduled for September 15th.

Coalition members also made plans to invite the District 4 legislative candidates to a meeting to discuss the measure and its impact if passed by the state’s voters. Candidates include Daryl Lies and John Warner for the North Dakota Senate and Glen Froseth, Tom Conklin and Kenton Onstad for the North Dakota House of Representatives.

A 2010 study of North Dakota residents indicated 72.5 percent of respondents supported a law that would eliminate all tobacco smoke from indoor workplaces. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease in both the nation and North Dakota. Last year, tobacco use killed 800 North Dakotans prematurely and cost the state over $247 million in healthcare.

If the smoke-free law is passed, North Dakota will join 29 other states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, which have all passed smoke-free laws that cover restaurants and bars.

If the submitted petitions are approved, North Dakotans will vote on the comprehensive smoke-free law during the general election on November 6.

Linton and Lisbon to go
smoke-free Sept. 1st,
Kenmare Coalition looks
at parks and playgrounds
In the meantime, two more North Dakota cities will enforce comprehensive smoke-free ordinances as of September 1st.

The Linton City Council voted 4-2 during their August 6th meeting to adopt an ordinance that makes all indoor public places smoke-free. Linton marks the 10th North Dakota city to pass a smoke-free ordinance, joining Bismarck, Cavalier, Devils Lake, Fargo, Grand Forks, Lisbon, Napoleon, Pembina and West Fargo.

In June, 67 percent of Linton citizens voted in support of adopting a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance in an advisory vote. While the results of the vote supported the smoke-free ordinance, city council members had to decide whether or not to adopt it. The ordinance will take effect September 1st.

Lisbon’s newly-adopted smoke-free ordinance goes into effect the same day. With the addition of Linton and Lisbon, 38 percent of North Dakotans are protected from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.

For the past year, Kenmare Coalition members have encouraged the Kenmare City Council to enact a similar ordinance.

During the August 7th meeting, the group also started discussing the need for a policy to establish tobacco-free parks and playgrounds in Kenmare. The initiated measure for the state ballot does not cover parks and playgrounds in a definitive way. Local areas of concern to the coalition included the Jaycee Park, walking path, baseball and softball diamonds, city pool and downtown square.

The coalition is reviewing a collection of similar policies from communities in Minnesota before drafting a policy to address Kenmare’s needs.

Next meeting is
September 11th
The next meeting of the Kenmare Tobacco-Free Coalition will be held Tuesday, September 11th, at the One Stop Burger Shop, beginning at 12 noon. Everyone is welcome to attend.

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.